Skip to main content

Full text of "The tower of oblivion"

See other formats


CO 



OLIVER ONIONS 

B 




af % 

Jtrf 



Miss M.S. Cassels 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS 

ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO 

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED 

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OP CANADA. LTD. 

TORONTO 



The Tower of Oblivion 



BY 

OLIVER ONIONS 



AUTHOR OF 
"A CASE IN CAMERA," ETC. 



VH3 

H2eto gork 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 
1921 

All rights reserved 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



f* 



COPYRIGHT, 1921, 

BY 
OLIVER ONIONS 



Set up and printed. Published November, 1921. 




/ ! \ 

/ 



A 1 



Press of 

J. J. Little & Ives Company 
New York. U. S. A, 



To 

NIGEL PLAYFAIR 
and the Ladies and Gentlemen of 

"THE BEGGAR'S OPERA COMPANY" 
(Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, June 5th, 1920) 

who were so constantly his 

"pleasure and soft repose" 

while the following pages were 

writing, this book is dedicated 

by 

their friend and well-wisher 
THE AUTHOR 

Kensington - - - - 1921 



CONTENTS 

ENGLAND 

PACK 

THE SIDE-SLIP i 

THE STERN CHASE 57 

THE STRAPHANGER 91 

THE DOUBLE CROSS 129 

THE PIVOT . . . 181 

FRANCE 

THE LONG SPLICE 207 

THE EVEN KEEL 261 

THE CUT-OUT 327 

THE DESERT ISLAND 371 

THE HOME STRETCH ...... . . . . 407 



ENGLAND 



PART I 
THE SIDESTEP 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



I think it is Edgar Allan Poe who says that while a plain 
thing may on occasion be told with a certain amount of elabo- 
ration of style, one that is unusual in its very nature is best 
related in the simplest terms possible. I shall adopt the 
second of these methods in telling this story of my friend, 
Derwent Rose. And I will begin straight away with that 
afternoon of the spring of last year when, with my own 
eyes, I first saw, or fancied I saw, the beginning of the 
change in him. 

The Lyonnesse Club meets in an electric-lighted basement- 
suite a little way off the Strand, and as I descended the 
stairs I saw him in the narrow passage. He was standing 
almost immediately under an incandescent lamp that pro- 
jected on its curved petiole from the wall. The light shone 
brilliantly on his hair, where hardly a hint of grey or trace 
of thinness yet showed, and his handsome brow and straight 
nose were in full illumination and the rest of his face in 
sharp shadow. He wore a dark blue suit with an exquisitely 
pinned soft white silk collar, to which, as I watched, his 
fingers moved once; and he was examining with deep atten- 
tion a print that hung on the buff-washed wall. 

I spoke behind him. "Hello, Deny ! One doesn't often 
see your face here." 

Quietly as I spoke, he started. Ordinarily he had very 
straight and steady grey-blue eyes, alert and receptive, but 
for some seconds they looked from me to the print and 
from the print to me, irresolutely and with equally divided 

i 



2 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

attention. One would almost have thought that he had 
heard his name called from a great distance. Then his eyes 
settled finally on the print, and he repeated my last words 
over his shoulder. 

"My face? Here? . . . No." 

"What's the picture? Anything special?" 

Still without moving his eyes from it he replied, "The pic- 
ture? You ought to know more about it than I it's your 
Club, not mine " 

And he continued his absorbed scrutiny. 

Now I had passed that picture scores of times before and 
had never found it worth a glance. It was a common collo- 
type reproduction of a stodgy night-effect, a full moon in a 
black-leaded sky with reflections in water to match price 
perhaps five shillings. Then suddenly, looking over his 
shoulder, I realised where his interest in it lay. He was not 
looking at the picture at all. In the polished glass, that 
made an excellent mirror in that concentrated light, I had 
seen his eyes earnestly fixed on his own eyes, his cheeks, 
his hair, his chin. . . . 

Well, Derwent Rose had better reason than most men for 
looking at himself in a picture-glass if he chose. Indeed it 
had already struck me that that afternoon he looked even 
more than ordinarily fresh and handsome. Let me, before 
we go any further, describe his personal appearance to you. 

He had, as I knew, passed his forty-fifth birthday in the 
preceding January ; but he would have been taken anywhere 
for at least ten years younger. You will believe this when 
I tell you that at the age of thirty-nine, that is to say in the 
year 1914, he had walked into a recruiting-office, had given 
his age as twenty-eight, received the compliments of the 
R.A.M.C. major who had examined him, had joined an in- 
fantry battalion as a private, risen to the rank of company- 
sergeant-major, and had hardly looked a day older when he 
had come out again, with a herring-bone of chevrons on his 
cuff and a captain's stars on his shoulder not so much as 
scratched. He was just over six feet high, with the shoul- 
ders of a pavlour and the heart and lung capacity of a diver. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 3 

Had you not been told that he wrote novels you would have 
thought that he ran a ranch. His frame was a perfectly bal- 
anced combination of springiness and dead-lift power of 
muscle; and to see those grey-blue eyes that looked into 
yours out of unwrinkled lids was to wonder what secret he 
possessed that the cares and rubs and disillusions of life 
should so have passed him by. 

Yet he had had his share of these, and more. His looks 
might be smooth, but wrinkles enough lay behind his writing. 
From those boyish eyes that reminded you of a handler of 
boats or a breaker of horses there still peeped out from time 
to time the qualities of his earlier, uneasy books the gay 
and mortal and inhuman irony of The Vicarage of Bray, 
the vehement, unchecked passion of An Ape in Hell. If to 
the ordinary bookstall-gazer these works were unknown 
well, that was part of the task that Derwent Rose had set 
himself. It is part of the task any writer sets himself who 
refuses all standards but his own, and works on the assump- 
tion that he is going to live for ever. Only his last pub- 
lished book, The Hands of Esau, showed a fundamental ur- 
banity, a mellower restraint, and perhaps these were the se- 
curer the more hardly they had been come by. I for one 
expected that his next book would rise like a star above the 
vapours where we others let off our little six-shilling 
crackers . . . but his body seemed a mere flouting of the 
years. 

And here he stood under the corolla of an incandescent 
lamp, looking at himself for wrinkles! 

Then in the glass he caught my eye, and flushed a little to 
have been caught attitudinising. He gave a covert glance 
round to see whether anybody else had observed him. A 
few yards away, in the doorway, Madge Aird was smilingly 
receiving the Club's guests, but for the moment Madge was 
looking the other way. Then he spoke in a muffled voice. 

"Well? Notice anything? How do I look? How do I 
strike you? No, I don't want a compliment. I'm asking 
you a question. How do I look? I've a special reason for 
wanting to know." 



4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I laughed a little, not without envy. 

"How do you look !" I said. "Another ten years will be 
time enough for you to begin to worry about your looks, 
Derry. I know your age, of course, but for all practical 
purposes you may consider yourself thirty-five, my young 
friend/' 

Sadly, sadly now I remember the eagerness of his turn. 

"How much?" he demanded. 

"I said thirty-five or thereabouts, you Darling of the Gods. 
I'm fifty, but you make me look sixty, and when you're a 
hundred your picture will be in the papers with the O.M. 
round your neck. You'll probably have picked up the Nobel 
Prize too, and a few other trifles on the way. You've got a 
physique to match your brain, lucky fellow that you are, an* 
nothing but accident can stop you. 'Don't go out and get run 
over, that's all. Well, are you coming in ?" 

But he hung back. And yet it was largely his own fault 
if in such places as this Club he felt like a fish out of water. 
It might even have been called a perverse and not very 
amiable vanity in him, and I had hoped he had got over this 
shyness, arrogance, or both. We have to live in a world, 
even if we are as gifted mentally and physically as was 
Derwent Rose. But it was no good pressing him. I re- 
membered him of old. 

"Then if you're not coming in ?" I ventured to hint ; and 
again his hand went to the soft collar. 

"What have I come for, you mean? I want you to find 
out for me if there's a Mrs Bassett here." 

"I don't think I know her." 

"Mrs Hugo Bassett. Ask somebody, will you?" 

"What's she like to look at?" 

"Can't say. Haven't seen her for years." 

"Wait a bit. Is it somebody called Daphne Bassett?" 

"Yes, yes Daphne," he said quickly. 

"Who published what's called a 'first novel' some little 
time ago?" 

Instantly I saw that I had said something he didn't like. 
The blood stirred in his cheeks. He spoke roughly, im- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 5 

politely. And even up to this point his manner had been 
curt enough. 

"Why do you say it like that?'' he demanded. " 'First' 
novel, with a sneer ? She wrote a novel, if that's what you 
mean." 

Yet, though he began by glaring at me, he ended by look- 
ing uneasily away. You too may have wondered why pub- 
lishers so eagerly insist that some novel or other is a really- 
and-truly 'first' one. Your bootmaker doesn't boast that the 
pair of boots he sells you is his 'first' pair, and you wouldn't 
eat your cook's 'first' dinner if you could help it. You may 
take it from me that in the ordinary course of things Derwent 
Rose would have been far more likely to applaud the novel 
that ended an ignominious career than the one that began 
it. Yet here he was, apparently wishing to outface me about 
something or other, yet at the same time unable to look me in 
the eye. 

"There's got to be a first before there can be a second, 
hasn't there?" he growled. "Jessica had to have a First 
Prayer, didn't she? And is there such a devil of a lot of 
difference between one novel and another when you come to 
think of it yours or mine or anybody else's?" 

It was at this point that I began to watch him attentively. 

"Go on, Derry," I said. 

"There isn't; you know there isn't; and I'm getting sick 
of this superior attitude. Why must everybody do the Big 
Bow Wow all the time? Can't somebody write something 
just for amuse I mean must they always be banging the 
George Coverham Big Drum? As long as it doesn't make 
any pretence. . . . Have you read it?" he demanded sud- 
denly. 

"No." 

"Then you don't know anything about it." 

It was here that 1 became conscious of what I have called 
the Change. Whatever had happened to put him out, this 
was not the Derry Rose I had lately seen. Surely my re- 
mark about that "first" novel had been innocent enough ; but 
he had replied surlily, unamiably, un familiarly. . . . "Un- 



6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

familiar?" No, that is not the word. I should rather say 
remotely familiar, recollected, brought forward again out 
of some time that was past Just as in his resplendent 
physical appearance he seemed to be "too" well, if such a 
thing can be, so in his manner he seemed to be too . . . 
something; I gave it up. I only knew that the author of 
The Hands of Esau would not have spoken thus. 

"Well, will you find out for me if she's here?" he said in 
a softer one. 

I fancy that already he was sorry he had not spoken more 
quietly. 

"Why not come in and see for yourself ?" 

"Oh you know how I hate this sort of thing." 

"Not long ago you spoke of joining the Lyonnesse." 

"I know. I thought I would. But I've decided it's out of 
my line." 

"Then at least come and be introduced to Mrs Aird. 
She'll know whether Mrs Bassett's here or not." 

The blue-grey eyes gave mine a quick and critical glance. 

"Is that the Mrs Aird who writes those bright books about 
young women and their new clothes and how right their in- 
stincts are if you only give them plenty of pocket-money 
and leave 'em alone?" 

I smiled. Perhaps it was a little like Madge. But I 
noticed his sharp distinction between the novels of one 
woman and the "first" novel of another. It began to look 
as if behind Mrs Hugo Bassett the novelist lay Daphne 
Bassett the woman, 

"Well," I sighed, "I'm to ask for Mrs Hugo Bassett. 
What's the title of her book?" 

"The Parthian Arrow." 

"Mrs Hugo Bassett, author of The Parthian Arrow. 
Very well " 

I approached Madge, but before I could ask my question 
she had drawn me inside the doorway. 

"Who is he?" she whispered ardently in my ear. Her 
plump ringed hand clutched my sleeve, and there was the 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 7 

liveliest curiosity in the dark eyes that looked up at me from 
under her nodding hat with black pleureuse feathers. 

"Is there a Mrs Bassett here Daphne Bassett?" 

"No. But " 

"Has she been, and is she likely to come ?" 

"She hasn't been, and nobodyTl come now. But 
George " 

"111 see you presently ; just let me get rid of my message," 
I said ; and I returned to Rose. 

A glance at my face was enough for him. He may have 
muttered a "Thank-you," but I didn't hear it; he had spun 
on his heel and in a moment was half-way to the cloakroom. 
I hope he got his own hat, for he was out again almost in- 
stantly. I had a glimpse of his magnificent back as he hur- 
ried along the passage, then a flying heel at the turn of the 
stairs and he was gone. Turning, I saw that Madge had 
watched his departure with me. She almost ran to me. 

"Quickly, George who, who is your Beautiful Bear, and 
why have you been keeping a superb creature like that from 
me ?" she demanded. "I knew he was waiting for a woman. 

Every skirt that came in " at the swing of her head the 

feathers tossed like an inky weeping-elm in a gale. "But," 
she added, "I confess I never saw a man admire himself 
quite so openly before," 

My friend has scored off me often enough in the past. 
This time I scored off her. 

"Derwent Rose always was good-looking," I remarked. 

She fell a step back. 

"George! Derwent Rose! You don't mean to say that 
that was Derwent Rose?" 

"I always thought you knew everybody in London." 

"That was Derwent Rose !" Then she added, with inex- 
pressible conviction and satisfaction, "Ah!" 

I am always a little uneasy when Madge Aird says "Ah !" 
in that tone. She was Madge Ruthven before she married 
Alec Aird, and I have often wondered whether in the past 
any of her Scottish forbears had any traffic with France. 



8 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I am not now thinking of the air with which she always 
wore her clothes, from whatever it was on her head to the 
always irresistible shoes on her tiny feet. I mean the work- 
ings of her mind. There is none of our northern softness 
and hesitation and mystery about these. All she thinks and 
says has a logical completeness and finish that somehow 
always seems just a little too good to be true. Few things 
in this world are so neatly right as that. But wrong though 
her conclusions may be, they are always dazzlingly effective, 
and you have to swallow them or reject them whole. 

"Ahf she murmured again, with the intensest self -ap- 
proval; and I wondered what unreliable imperfection she 
was meditating now. You never know with her. She sees 
so many people, goes to so many places, hears so much. 
Often the mere mention of a name is enough to touch off 
that instantaneous fuse of her memory that leads straight 
into the heart of heaven knows what family history or hid- 
den scandal. 

"And what do you mean by 'Ah' ?" I asked her. 

"The gorgeous creature! I never dreamed but this 
makes the situation perfectly fascinating!" 

"What situation?" 

"Why, of him and Daphne Bassett. But poor old George, 
I keep forgetting that you're the noblest Roman of them 
all and don't listen to our horrid petty little scandal. And 
evidently you haven't read The Parthian Arrow." 

"I haven't. Tell me what it's about." 

"But you've read An Ape in Hell?" 

"Of course. Tell me what the other's about." 

But at that moment she was claimed. Her next words 
came over her shoulder as, with a wisk of her ribboned 
ankles and another gale in the shake of feathers, she was off. 

"Not now another time. I shall be in fairly early this 
evening if you're staying in town. It's quite an interesting 
situation. And if you'll bring your Beautiful Bear to see 
me some time, I'll " 

I understood her to mean that in that case she would bring 
Mrs Hugo Bassett also. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



II 

I live out in Surrey, my car happened to be in dock, and 
I had my train to think of. As I walked slowly up the short 
street to the Strand I puzzled over Madge's words. Evi- 
dently she found some connection between that "first" novel, 
The Parthian Arrow, and Rose's own book, An Ape in Hell. 
Well, my ignorance could soon be remedied. There was a 
bookshop just round the corner, and I could be the possessor 
of a copy of Mrs Bassett's book in five minutes. 

But suddenly, on the point of hailing a taxi, I dropped 
the point of my stick again. Somewhere at the back of my 
mind was the feeling that there was some invitation or ap- 
pointment I had overlooked. I knew that it could be of no 
great importance, and, looking back on these events since, I 
have thought that it was perhaps a mere disinclination to go 
down to Surrey that night that gave me pause. I may say 
that I am unmarried, and have got my housekeeper fairly 
well trained to my ways. 

So, standing on the kerb, I brought a number of papers 
from my pocket and began to turn them over in search of the 
forgotten appointment. 

I found it. It was a lecture by a Fellow of a Learned 
Society, and it was to take place at the rather unusual hour 
of six o'clock. No doubt this was in order that the learned 
speaker might get his paper over by half-past seven, leaving 
his learned listeners free to dine. A taxi slowed down in 
front of me. 

"Society of Arts," I said to the driver. 

A minute later I was on my way to see Derwent Rose for 
the second time that afternoon. 

I will tell you in a moment the subject of that lecture I had 
so suddenly decided to attend. First, a word as to my atti- 
tude at that time towards new discoveries and new thought 
in general. I was enormously, wistfully interested in them. 
Instinctively, at that time, I stretched out my hands to them. 
I had lived long enough in the world to realise that such 



io THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

events as Trafalgar and the French Revolution were mere 
events of yesterday, and the possibilities of an equally near 
to-morrow haunted me. I shrank from the thought that 
while* the dead stones of the Law Courts and Australia 
House would still be there after I had gone, I should not at 
least be able to make a guess at the stream of Life, uncradled 
yet, that would beat and press and flow along those channels 
in so little a time, the new blood of London's old unchanging 
veins. One begins to think of these things when one is fifty. 
So, at a minute or so to six, my taxi set me down in the 
Adelphi, when I might have been a happier man had it taken 
me straight to Waterloo. 

And now for what that lecture was all about 

My meaning will perhaps be clearer if I give an extract 

from a leading article in The Times of slightly later date. On 

a subject of this kind I would rather use an expert's words 

than risk the inaccuracies that might creep into my own. 

"Human beings," the article begins, "differ not only in 
the knowledge they have acquired, but in their dower of 
intelligence or natural ability. It has Jong been accepted that 
the former property may continue to increase until the 
natural faculties begin to abate, but that the latter has a 
maximum for each individual, attained early in life. . . . 
Intelligence, as opposed to knowledge, is fully developed 
before the age of schooling is over. Sixteen years has 
usually been taken as the age at which, even in those best 
endowed, the limit of intelligence has been reached. Ob- 
viously the standard varies in different individuals; the de- 
gree of intelligence passed through by the more fortunate 
at the age of ten may be the final attainment of others, and 
all intermediate stages occur. . . . Mr H. H. Goddard, an 
American psychologist of international repute, classifies the 
intelligence of his countrymen into seven grades, but Relieves 
that in exceptional cases, amounting to four and a half per 
cent, of the population, a superlative standard is reached at 
the age of nineteen. On the other hand, seventy per cent, of 
the citizens of the United States have to carry on their lives 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION II 

with the intelligence of children of fourteen, and ten per 
cent, with that of children of ten." 

It was to hear these conclusions of Mr Goddard's ex- 
pounded by a fellow-savant that I had come that afternoon 
to the Society of Arts. 

To tell the truth, a certain whimsical humour in the idea 
had attracted me. When a man's books sell as well as mine 
do, and he is as flatteringly thought of as I am, it is rather 
tickling to be told that he is really an infant of sixteen or 
seventeen, telling fairy-stories to a gigantic public nursery 
the average age of which is perhaps twelve. Sir George 
Coverham, Knight, merely the top boy of a kindergarten of 
adults ! ... It pleased me, and I rather hoped the lecturer 
would approach his subject from that humorous angle. 

The lights were being turned down as I entered the lecture 
chamber. Quietly, not to make a disturbance, I tiptoed to 
the nearest seat Then, as with a preliminary hiss or two 
the shaft of light from the lantern pierced the gloom, 
I was able dimly to distinguish that the subject of the lec- 
ture had not attracted more than a couple of dozen people. 
These barely filled the first two rows. The rest of the 
theatre appeared to be empty. Of the speaker himself 
nothing could be seen but a glimpse of white beard as he 
moved slightly at the reading-lamp. 

He read from a typescript in a flat, monotonous voice, 
with once in a while a halting explanatory remark that 
trailed, paused, and then stopped altogether. I watched the 
acute angles his wand made with its own shadow on the 
diagrams projected by the lantern. 

Then I thought I heard an impatient movement and mut- 
tering somewhere behind me. The speaker, after another 
long and painful pause, had just said, "I hope I've made that 
clear, gentlemen" ; and I was almost certain that the muffled 
growl had taken the shape of the words "You don't know a 
damned thing about it!" 

Then, a few minutes later, the sound was repeated, this 
time accompanied by an unmistakable groan. 



12 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Sssh 1" said somebody sharply from the front or second 
row. 

The lecture dragged on. 

But about the next and final outbreak there was no doubt 
whatever. Neither was there about the sharp suffering of 
whoever was the cause of it. Somebody a couple of rows 
behind me must be ill, I thought, and evidently others 
thought so too, for the lecturer came definitely to a stop, and 
my eyes, now accustomed to the gloom, saw the turning of 
faces. 

"Is anybody ?" a secretary or chairman called out, and 

I expected the light to go up at any moment. 

In the end, however, the lecture was finished without fur- 
ther incident. The lights were switched on, the dingy classic 
painted panels on the walls could be seen, and instantly every 
face, my own included, was turned towards the back of a 
man who was seen to be hurriedly making his way to the 
door. 

I cannot tell you what happened at the Society of Arts 
after that. I was already on my feet, hurrying after that 
back. It was the same back I had seen, in the same haste, 
leaving the Lyonnesse Club less than two hours ago. 

He had got to the entrance hall before I caught him up. 
He accepted with rather disturbing docility the arm I slipped 
into his. All the fight had gone out of him; he might not 
have been the same man who had so recently tried to outface 
me about first novels. I looked at his face as we stood by 
the glass doors that opened on to John Street. It showed 
both fear and pain. 

"What's the matter, Derry? Can I be of any help?" I 
asked him anxiously. 

He muttered, "Yes yes about time I called somebody 
in just about enough of it " 

"Do you want a doctor? Shall we call at a chemist's?" 

He stared at me for a moment; then I vow he almost 
laughed. 

"A doctor ? No thanks. One dose a day's quite enough." 

"One dose of what?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 13 

"Words," he replied, with a jerk of his head in the direc- 
tion of the lecture chamber. 

We passed out and into John Street, he accommodating 
his ordinary London- to-Brighton pace to mine. He once 
told me that five miles an hour was walking, six stepping out 
a bit, and anything over six and a half really "going." 

"Which way?" I asked at the end of the street. 

"I suppose you'd better come round to my place," he re- 
plied; and we crossed the Strand and struck north past 
Trafalgar Square. 

He lived (I am not troubling you with the lobster we 
shared standing up at a counter, during which repast we did 
not exchange one single word) he lived in Cambridge Cir- 
cus, and I hope I have not given you the impression that 
Derwent Rose was desperately poor. When I spoke of him, 
as having none too much either of money or success I meant 
as by comparison with myself. Until, quite suddenly and 
by no means early in life, my own reward came to me, I 
should have considered his quarters luxurious once you had 
got there. This you did by means of a narrow staircase 
from the various landings of which branched off the offices 
of variety-agents, film-brokers, furriers, jewellers and I 
don't know what else. The double windows he had had 
fitted into his room subdued the noises of the Circus outside, 
and if he cared to draw his thick brocade curtains as well he 
could obtain almost dead silence. His black oak furniture 
was brightly polished by some basement person or other, his 
saddlebag chairs scrupulously beaten and brushed. The two 
or three thousand books that completely filled two of his 
walls might have been arranged by a librarian, so methodi- 
cally and conveniently were they disposed, with lettered and 
numbered tickets at intervals along the edges of the shelves ; 
and I knew that he had begun a catalogue of them. All 
this portion of his room spoke of a man settling down into 
meticulousness, whom disorderly habits and departures from 
routine begin to irritate. In marked contrast with it was 
the topsy-turvy state of the large oval table with the beaded 
edge. This was in an appalling state of confusion. News- 



14 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

papers had been tossed aside on to it, open books with their 
faces downwards sprawled over it. Empty shells of brown 
paper still kept something of the shape of the books they had 
contained, and ends of packer's string with bits of sealing- 
wax twined among them. A teacup lay on its side in a wet 
saucer, a large oval milk-can stood next to it. And on the 
top of all were the snaky rubber cords of an exerciser and 
a ten-pound, horsehair-stuffed medicine-ball. 

I was about to hang up my hat in the neatly-curtained re- 
cess he had had fitted up as a lobby when he exclaimed "Oh, 
chuck it anywhere," and set me the example by throwing his 
own hat and stick on to the clutter. They caught the medi- 
cine-ball, which rolled an inch or two, tottered, and then fell 
with a soft dead thump to the floor. The next instant, as if 
now that his own door was closed behind him there was no 
longer any need to keep up appearances, he himself had 
fallen with a similar thud to the sofa. He, this piece of 
physical perfection who called six miles an hour "stepping 
out a bit," lay all limp and relaxed, with lids quivering lightly 
over his closed eyes. He spoke with his eyes closed. 

"Well, what did you think of it?" he said, breathing 
deeply. 

I tried to keep my anxiety out of my tone. 

"What did I think of the lecture?" 

"Yes, the lecture if you like. That'll do to start with. 
No, I don't want anything, thanks. Tell me what you 
thought of the lecture." 

I began to say something, I hardly remember what, when, 
still with his eyes closed and twitching, he interrupted me. 

"All those silly charts all those useless figures about the 
American Army that's all waste of time. Making work for 
work's sake. I could have told him all that straight away." 

I remembered those groans in the obscurity of the lecture- 
room. I spoke quietly. 

"Is that what you were going to tell him when you inter- 
rupted a little?" 

I had to wait for his reply. When it did come I hardly 
heard it, so low did he speak. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 15 

"I know what you mean; but I can only tell you that if 
you'd been vivisected like that you'd have squirmed a bit 
too." 

I couldn't help thinking he had taken that lecture in a 
curiously personal sense, and I said so. 

"Vivisected ?" I exclaimed. "I was vivisected, as you call 
it, just as much as you were perhaps more in some ways. 
What on earth are you talking about ? It's a general ques- 
tion. It's human functions and faculties at large he was 
vivisecting, not you or me. So," I concluded, "we were all 
vivisected alike, and when everybody's vivisected you 
see " I made a little gesture. 

Then he opened his eyes, and there was an expression in 
them that suddenly dried me up. It was an even more re- 
markable throw-back to a remembered and earlier manner 
than that I had witnessed earlier in the afternoon. In short, 
it was an expression of unconcealed contempt. 

"Q.E.D.," he said. "Finis, Explicit, and the Upper 
Fourth next Term. You'd have made a good schoolmaster. 
... I tell you that when I say 'I' and 'myself " he posi- 
tively glared with irascibility and impatience "I mean my- 
self singly and specially, understand the egregious and in- 
destructible ego and not merely just as much or as little 
as anybody else. Get that well into your head or I won't 
talk to you." 

Had he not been so visibly suffering I shouldn't have stood 
the tone of it for a moment, not even from him. And let 
me tell you at once the surmise that had already flashed 
through my brain. I am a dependable sort of person myself, 
one of the kind that nothing startlingly new is ever likely to 
happen to; but I was not so sure about his kind. Brains 
like his often fly off at queer tangents, and I wondered 
whether he had been reading too much of this current cant 
about "multiple personality" and ha*d allowed it to run away 
with him. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to rush to 
that for an explanation of everything nowadays. I had 
already noticed, by the way, that one of the books that 
sprawled cover uppermost on his table was a book on the 



16 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

thyroid gland. But suddenly he seemed to guess at my 
thoughts. He spoke more quietly. Indeed he seemed to be 
fully aware of these outbreaks of his, and to be trying to 
resist them more and more strenuously as our conversation 
proceeded. 

"Sorry, old fellow," he said contritely. "I'm very sorry. 
I oughtn't to have spoken like that. But I'm not what they 
call 'disintegrating'; I'm the last man to do that. When I 
say T I mean the T I've always been. That's just the 
devil of it." 

"Suppose you begin at the beginning," I suggested. 

"There you are !" was his swift reply. He was sitting up 
on the sofa now, and was facing it, whatever "it" was, with 
a calmer courage. "I ccm't begin at the beginning. All I 
really know yet's the end, and of course that hasn't come. 
. . . It's a damn-all of a problem. Get yourself a drink if 
you want one. No, I won't have one; I I daren't. And 
you might draw the curtains. When I hear the buses and 
taxis it makes me want to go out." 

I drew his curtains for him, but did not take the drink. 
He sat on the sofa leaning a little forward, his great hands 
clasped between his knees and working slightly and power- 
fully, as if he cracked walnuts in the palms of them. The 
grey-blue eyes avoided mine. I have seen that same avoid- 
ing glance in the eyes of a man who had something perfectly 
true to tell, but so utterly improbable that he was self- 
convicted O'f lying even in speaking of it. 

"About what you were saying this afternoon in that Club 
place my age," he began in a constrained voice. "You 
you meant it, I suppose?" 

"That you'd live to be a hundred and be world-famous? 
Yes, I meant it in a way. I didn't mean you to take me too 
literally, of course." 

"And you thought" he hesitated for a moment and 
shivered slightly "it was something to be congratulated 
about?" 

"Well isn't it ? Professionally you've staked out a mag- 
nificent course for yourself in which time means practically 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 17 

everything, and so, if you live long enough, as you look like 
doing " 

Yet I cannot tell you what premonition of calamity seemed 
already to flow like an induced current from him to me. 
Ordinarily I am not specially sensitised to receive impres- 
sions of this kind. I am just a man who had had the luck 
to think as most other people think and to be able to express 
their thoughts for them. The greater therefore must have 
been that current's projecting force. Certainly the greater 
was my shock when it did come. 

"I shan't live to be a hundred," he said in a low voice. 

I cannot remember what I sa*d, or whether I said any- 
thing at all. All that I do remember is his own next words, 
the swift and agonising collapse of the whole man as he said 
them, and the feeling of my own nape and spine. 

"No, not a hundred. You're counting the wrong way. 
You got my age quite right this afternoon. I'm thirty-five. 
And I shall live till I'm sixteen." 



Ill 

Among the things that have contributed to the wordly 
success of Sir George Coverham, Knight, has been that 
author's rigid exclusion from his books of everything that 
does not commend itself to the average common sense of his 
fellow-beings. The most he seeks in his modest writings I 
speak of him in the third person because, as Berry's head 
dropped over his knees, it seemed impossible that this Sir 
George Coverham and I could be one and the same person 
the most he seeks is a line somewhere between ordinary ex- 
perience and the most, rather than the least, attractive pres- 
entation of it. In a word, his books are polite, debonair, 
and deliberately planned so as not to shock anybody. 

Therefore in some ways he may be quite the wrong person 
to be writing this story of Derwent Rose. For example : he 
had known Rose for some fifteen years, and, not to mince 
matters, there had been many highly impolite things in 



18 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Rose's life during that time. More than once it had seemed 
a very good thing indeed that he had had to work hard for 
his money. The great mental concentration necessary for 
the writing of some of his books must have kept him out of 
a good deal of mischief. 

So I (I am allowing myself the man and Sir George 
Coverham the novelist gradually to reunite, as they gradually 
reunited that evening) I, his friend, had already done what 
we all do when we are completely bowled over. I had in- 
stinctively sought refuge from his lunatic announcement in 
trifles any trifle that lay nearest to hand. Suddenly I 
found myself wondering why he was afraid to take a drink, 
and why I had 'had to draw his curtains lest the sound of 
the buses and taxis should call him out into the streets. 

But presently he had recovered a little. He was even able 
to look at me with the faint shadow of a smile. 

"Well, that's the lot," he said. "I've given you the whole 
thing in a nutshell. You heard that lecture and you know 
me. You can fill in the rest for yourself." 

Suddenly I looked at my watch. It was not yet half-past 
nine. I got on to my feet. 

"You'd better get your hat and come down to Haslemere 
with me," I said. "We can catch the ten-ten. You're all 
on edge about something and you want a change. Leave 
word here that you'll be back in a week, and come along." 

But he did not move, except to shake his head. 

"I expected you'd say that. It's what anybody would 
say. It simply means that you haven't taken it in yet. No, 
since we've started we'll go on unless you'd rather not. I 
warn you there's a good deal to be said for not going on." 

"Why not talk about it down at Haslemere ?" 

Once more there was the hint of irascibility. 

"Do you want to hear or don't you ?" 

Slowly I sat down again, and he resumed his former atti- 
tude of cracking nuts with his palms for nutcrackers. 

"There's not an atom of doubt about what I'm going to 
tell you," he began. "Not an atom. Unless I'm mistaken 
you saw for yourself this afternoon though of course you 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 19 

didn't know what you were seeing. You simply thought I 
looked younger, didn't you?" 

I waited in silence. 

"And I fancy my manner got a bit on your nerves does a 
bit now for that matter?" 

This also I let pass without remark. 

"Well, let's start from that point. You said I looked 
thirty-five. Well, it's just that that's getting on your 
nerves the less amiable side of my character when I was 
thirty-five, and and well, when you go you might take that 
bottle of whisky with you and make me sign the pledge or 
something. I'm trying I'm honestly trying to hang on, 
you see." 

I sighed. "I wish you could make it a bit plainer," I said. 

"I'm making it as plain as I can. Is this plain that some- 
thing's happened to me, I don't know what, and I'm getting 
younger instead of older?" 

"Derry " I began, half rising; but he held up one 

heroically-moulded hand. 

"Let me finish. And if I happen to go to sleep suddenly 
you just walk straight out, do you hear? Walk right out 
and shut the door. You're to promise that. There are 
some things I won't ask even a pal to go through. ... So 
there it is. Instead of getting older like everybody else I'm 
simply getting younger. I'm perfectly sober I haven't had 
a drink for five days and I tell you I shall go on till I'm 
thirty, and then twenty-five, and then twenty, and then, at 
sixteen or thereabouts that fellow wasn't very sound on 
his ages to-night I shall die. Now have you got it ?" 

Even about human nature there are some things that you 
have to accept as it were mathematically. I am no mathe- 
matician, but I do know (for example) that the common 
phrase ''mathematically certain" is a misnomer. The whole 
essence of mathematics lies, not in its certainties, but in its 
assumptions, its power to embrace any concept whatever and 
pin it down in the form of a symbol. Once you have 
adopted the symbol you don't trouble about what lies behind 
it. You merely proceed to reason on it. 



20 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

It can only have been in some such way that I accepted 
Derwent Rose's mad statement and was willing to see what 
superstructure he was prepared to raise upon it. I was even 
able to speak in an almost calm and ordinary voice. 

"Tell me how you know all this," I said. 

He was logical and prompt. 

"By my knowledge of myself, and also by my memory. 
I know what I was at thirty-five, and I know what I did; 
well, I simply know that I'm that man again, and that I shall 
go on and re-do more or less what he's already done. At 
some point in my life I must have got turned round, and 
now I'm living it backwards again. And put multiple per- 
sonality quite out of your head. That's the whole point. 
I'm not anybody else, and I shan't be anybody else. At this 
moment I'm Derwent Rose, as he always was and always will- 
be, but simply back at the mental and physical stage when 
he wrote An Ape in Hell!' 

To-day, looking back, it gives me an indescribable ache 
at my heart to remember the sudden and immense sense of 
relief his words gave me. I breathed again, as if a window 
had been opened and a draught of cool fresh air let in. 

For if he only meant memory, then the thing wasn't so 
bad. The maniacal idea that had sent that cold shiver up 
my spine was capable of an ordinary explanation after all. 
For what else is memory but the illusion that one is living 
backwards again in this sense? How many ancient loves, 
hates, angers, can we not re-experience in any idle hour we 
choose to give over to reverie? Beyond a doubt Rose had 
in some way been abusing this mysterious faculty, and Sur- 
rey and the pine-woods was the place for him. 

"I see," I said at last. "I confess you frightened me for 
a moment. Anyway that's all right. You only have what 
we all have more or less. You merely bring greater powers 
than the rest of us to bear on an ordinary phenomenon. I 
don't want to talk about your work, but it always did seem 
to me that you went to rather appalling heights and fear- 
some depths for the stuff of it. Personally I don't think 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 21 

either heaven or hell is the safest place to go to for 'copy.' 
Too terrifying altogether." 

He seemed to consider this deeply. He was almost quiet 
again now. Again he cracked invisible nuts, and his heels 
and toes rose and fell gently and alternately on the carpet. 

"That's rather a new idea you've given me, George," he 
said at last. "I admit I hadn't thought of that. It might 
explain the beginning anyway the turn-round. I suppose 
you mean I've been too close to the flames or the balm, and 
have got singed or the other thing, whatever you call it. I 
see. Yes. . . . It's probably nothing to do with the thyroid 
after all. I've been reading the wrong books. I never 
thought of the writings of the Saints. Or the Devils. . . . 
By the way, some of the Saints induced the stigmata on 
themselves by a sort of spiritual process, didn't they?" 

I frowned and moved uneasily in my chair. I wasn't 
anxious to hear Derwent Rose either on ecstasy or blas- 
phemy. But he went on. 

"So that's useful as far as it goes. But you'd hardly 
call this spiritual, would you?" 

I think I mentioned that he wore a soft white collar, pinned 
and tied with exquisite neatness. A moment later he wore 
it no longer. Without troubling about pin, studs or buttons, 
with a swift movement he had ripped the collar, tie and half 
the shirt-band from his neck, and showed, of an angry and 
recent purply-red, vivid on his magnificent throat, two 
curved marks like these brackets ( ). 

Now I am not more squeamish than most men. I am far 
from having lived the whole of my life in cotton- wool. But 
it needed no course in medical jurisprudence to tell me what 
those marks were the marks of teeth, and of a woman's 
teeth. I was deeply wounded. Rose's amusements in this 
sort were no affair of mine, and I strongly resented this 
humiliation both of himself and of me. 

But his hand gripped my arm like a vice. Suddenly I saw 
a quite new pair in his grey-blue eyes. It was a swift fear 
lest, instead of helping him, I should turn against him. 



22 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Good God, man !" he cried in a high voice. "Don't think 
that! Don't think I'm such a cur as to oh, my God, that 
isn't the point ! I'm not bragging about my conquests ! . . . 
The point is that these marks are ten years old and they 
weren't there last night!" 

I tried to free myself from his grip, but he wouldn't let me 
go. He ran agitatedly on, repeating himself over and over 
again. 

"There isn't much imagination about that, is there? That 
isn't fancy, is it? That doesn't happen to any man any 
day, does it? A man would be likely to remember that, 
wouldn't he? He wouldn't forget it, if it was only for the 
shame of it! Is that just ordinary memory? And how 
would you feel when everything was healed over and for- 
gotten, and you'd settled decently down, and hoped every- 
thing was forgiven you and then you were to be dragged 
back over the ploughshares like that ! I tell you you've got 
to see it all crowding back on you again, before you realise 
that forgetting's the greatest happiness in life! ... I tell 
you on my word of honour that that happened ten years ago, 
when I was thirty-five before, and that it wasn't there last 
night ! Now tell me I'm drunk or dreaming !" 

Stupefied I stared at him. The issue was plain. Either 
he was telling the truth, or he was not. Either those marks 
were as recent as they looked or as old as he said. He was 
to be believed or disbelieved. There was no middle way. 

And my heart sank like a stone in my breast as suddenly 
I found myself believing him. He saw that I did, and fum- 
blingly sought to fasten the collar again. But he had torn 
both buttonhole and band, and could only cover up those 
shameful marks by turning up the collar of his dark blue 
jacket. He sat with his collar turned up for the rest of our 
talk. 

Presently I felt a little more master of myself. I had 
moved over to the sofa and was sitting by his side. He, this 
youthful Hercules of forty-five, who wrote books and made 
you think of boats and horses, was weeping softly. He was 
weeping for misery and hate of what, apparently, he must 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 23 

go through again. Stupidly my eyes rested on the care- 
fully lettered and numbered shelves of books, and then on 
the slovenly litter of the table. The electric light gave the 
merest flicker they were doing something at the power- 
station and then burned quietly on. It shone on the black 
oak furniture and the saddlebag chairs, on our two hats 
on the table, on the neatly curtained recess where the hats 
should have been. It was impossible not to see that in its 
contrast of orderliness and disorder the very room showed 
two sharp and distinct phases. Almost with voices the inani- 
mate things seemed to cry it aloud. The man who had cata- 
logued those bays of books had been the author of The 
Hands of Esau. He who now threw everything down on to 
that disgraceful table was he who had written An Ape in 
Hell 

He still wept quietly. I put my hand on his knee. 

"All right, Derry," I said. "Try to pull yourself together. 
You say you can't begin at the beginning. Very well, begin 
anywhere you like. I dare say something can be done. It 
may turn out to be oh, shellshock or something." 

But already my heart told me that it would turn out to be 
nothing of the kind, 

IV 

I am not going to direct your attention specially to the 
more fantastic part of what Derwent Rose told me in his 
rooms that night. I have found no issue in that direction. 
Neither am I going into the metaphysics of the thing ; I know 
no more about that than he ever knew himself. But if you 
care to read, in reverse, the progress of a man out of the sad 
shadows of middle-age back into the light and beauty and 
belief that once were his always the same man, undeviating 
from the lines laid down by his own nature, re-approaching 
each phase as he had formerly approached it, but in times 
and circumstances so complex and altered that nothing in 
the pilgrimage was constant but himself if, I say, you care 
to read that extraordinary intertwining of what he had done 



24 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

and what he re-did, and are content with this, and will not 
pull me up every time the mystery of the deeper cause con- 
founds us both, then I am content too and we can go ahead. 

It had been going on (he told me) for six months past; 
but at the outset I ought to warn you that he had two scales 
of time. Here I wish that we were all mathematicians, and 
that I couM write and you could read his wondrous history 
in symbolized concepts. However, we will do the best we 
can with words. 

Broadly speaking, he went backwards, not at a uniform 
rate, but in & series of irregular and unequal slips. That 
is to say, tha,t though in six months or so of actual time he 
had retrograded the ten years between forty-five and thirty- 
five, it did not follow that he had gone back five years in 
three months or two and a half in any given six weeks. I 
went carefully into this point with him. I asked him, if the 
ratio was not a steady twenty to one (or a hundred and 
twenty months of experienced time as against six by the 
clock) what he estimated it at for shorter periods of either. 
But to this he could give no clear answer. Being unable to 
fix the precise turning-point, and hardly knowing when the 
indications in himself had begun (since at first he had put 
the whole thing aside as an absurdity) , he had no datum. He 
had only become fully awake to the phenomenon when it had 
not been possible to disregard it any longer. 

"Well, as we've got to assume something let's assume 
that," I said. "When was it that you first had no doubt 
at all?" 

This he did more or less remember. I give his account in 
his own words. 

"It was about two months ago/' he said. "I'd no book 
on hand. I don't mind admitting that I'd never felt so stale 
and empty and sick of everything I'd ever done. In fact I'd 
got to the point you noticed this afternoon." 

"What point was that? Don't let's take anything for 
granted/' 

"When you rubbed me up about that first novel. I'd got 
to the point of hardly seeing any difference worth mention- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 25 

ing between the worst stuff and the best, Shakespeare in- 
cluded. Do you mind if I go into that rather in detail?" 

"Do." 

"Here, I thought, is this creature man, this fellow called 
George Coverham or Derwent Rose, brought naked into a 
world that marvellously doesn't care a rap about him but 
that he's got to contrive to make some sort of an interpreta- 
tion of, because it's where he's got to live. He hasn't got 
too long to live there either a strictly limited time so that 
there's just him and this wonderful uncaring universe for it. 
This and nothing else is what happens every time a human 
being's brought into the world. All this procreation and 
child-bearing are just for that so that somebody can make 
head or tail of the world. . . . Well, what do they do to 
him ? By and by they send him to school. That's the first 
step towards taking him away from this universe he's trying 
to make something of and telling him instead what some 
other naked being before him thought about it all. That's all 
right as far as it goes. Just once in a while, I suppose, two 
heads may be better than one. But" he paused for em- 
phasis "when a third 'begins to repeat what a second has 
already repeated, and a fourth a third, and so on, by and 
by the universe begins to drop right away into the back- 
ground. The process goes on it has gone on till not one 
in ten million dreams there's a universe at all. You know 
what I mean all talk about talk about talk about it. So, if 
you've any sense of proportion at all, where does the differ- 
ence between one book and another come in ?" 

"Well that's the state of mind you were in," I observed. 
Goodness knows I wasn't trying to shut him up. If it did 
him good to talk I would gladly have listened to him all night. 
As for sharing these Olympian views of his, however, I 
have never had either the strength or the audacity. It is 
because of my own indefatigability in talking about talk 
about talk that they made me a Knight. 

"I was only trying to explain how I felt," he answered 
apologetically. "Let's start again. It was two months ago 
within a few days, and I know it was a Monday morning, 



26 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

because Mrs Hyems doesn't come up ori Sundays, and she 
brought a parcel that had been overlooked from Saturday 
night. It was half -past eight, and I was in there shaving" 
he nodded in the direction of his bedroom. "She wanted to 
call my attention to the parcel because it was registered." 

"Is this just to fix the date, or has the parcel anything to 
do with it?" 

"Both. I'm coming to the parcel in a minute. Well, as 
I was saying, I was just about fed up with things in general. 
Books in particular. Nice state of mind for an author with 
his living to earn to begin the week in! I remember stop- 
ping shaving to have a good hard look at myself. I remem- 
ber saying to myself in the glass, 'You're young, you're a 
perfect miracle of youth; you've got quite a good brain as 
brains go ; and yet instead of getting out of doors and living 
every minute of one of God's good days you'll sit down there, 
and make scratches on bits of paper that have got to be just 
like the scratches everybody else makes or you won't sell 
'em ; isn't there something wrong somewhere ?' I asked my- 
self that in the glass. And mind you, I was feeling extraor- 
dinarily fit physically. That's important. I'd felt like that 
for days past. Who wants to work when he feels like that ?" 

I sighed a little. Even I, with my modicum of health, 
have occasionally felt too fit to work. 

"So I finished dressing and came in here to breakfast, 
and I was half-way through breakfast when that book caught 
my eye." 

"What book?" 

"The parcel I spoke of. It was a book. As a matter of 
fact it was Mrs Bassett's book, The Parthian Arrow." 

I glanced at him. "Registered?" 

"Yes. You mean one doesn't usually register a common 
or garden novel unless you want there to be no mistake 
about the person getting it ?" 

"Go on." 

"So I opened it there and then and began to read it. I 
read it at a single sitting. Then I tore it in two. Wait a 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 27 

bit, I'll show you. Pass me a book, any one. They're all 
the same." 

I passed him a book from the untidy table, an ordinary 
two-inch-thick octavo volume in a cloth binding. Now read 
carefully. He didn't even change his position on the sofa. 
Using his knees only as a support, with his hands he tore 
the back into halves. Let me say it again. I don't mean 
he tore it lengthwise along the stitching. He didn't sepa- 
rate the pages into dozens or scores, nor bend or break it. 
He just tore it across as I might have torn a postcard. I 
can still see the creeping and fanning of the leaves under the 
dreadful pressure of his hands, the soft whity-grey fur of 
paper as the gap widened relentlessly before my eyes, hear 
the slightly harsher sound of the rending cloth and the little 
"zip" at the end. 

Then he tossed the two halves on to the table again. 

"I used to do a bit of that sort of thing years ago," he re- 
marked, without even a quickening of his breath. "Half- 
crowns and packs of cards, you know. But I'd had to drop 
it. Your muscles have changed by the time you're forty- 
five. I'd tried to tear a pack of cards not long before, but 
I could only make a mess of them and had to give it up." 

I found not a word to say. As much as the feat itself the 
terrifying ease with which he had done it made me gape. 

"Yes, my strength came on me like Samson's that morn- 
ing," he continued. "I was scared of it myself. I didn't 
know what was happening, you see. I'm simply trying to 
tell you the first time I knew there was no mistake about it." 

I found my voice. 

"But why did you tear the book? I I hope you weren't 
looking for the author this afternoon to tear her too!" I 
laughed nervously. 

He turned earnest eyes on me. 

"I swear I never meant her, George in that accursed Ape 
book of mine, I mean. Of course she must have thought I 
did, and and well, to be perfectly honest, I'm not quite 
sure she didn't start me on the idea. You've got to start 



28 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

somewhere. But I went over it a dozen times afterwards. 
Am I the man to take it out of a woman in print?" he ap- 
pealed piteously. 

He was not, and I tried to reassure him; but he broke in 
anew. 

"Why, I'd forgotten all about her before I'd written a 
couple of chapters ! You're a novelist ; you understand. If 
only she'd . . . But I suppose I left something in some 
damnable wounding oversight but I can't find it even yet" 
he glared round the room as if in search of a copy of his 
own book to submit to cross-examination all over again. 

And then abruptly he seemed to put the book aside. His 
manner changed. He lifted himself from the cushions and 
spoke in a strained voice. 

"Look here, George," he said hurriedly, jumping from 
point to point, "let's be getting on. I may be having to turn 
you out soon ; this may be no place for you. Where had we 
got to? Where I tore that book. You were asking me 
when I first felt sure of all this. Well, it wasn't just the 
book, it was what happened inside me as well. Something 
gave way. I was afraid. I'm afraid now. You've known 
me a long time, George; known scandalous things about 
me, I'm afraid. But a man can live a pretty queer sort of 
life and yet manage to keep something safe from harm all 
the time. It's that that I'm hanging on to now. You see, 
I've never had any habits or customs. I've never been the 
millionth man the fellow who repeats what they've all said 
before him. Every morning of my life I've tried to look 
at the universe as if I'd never seen it before as if it had 
never been seen by anybody before. Dashed risky way of 
living. . . . But I managed to keep something clean inside 
me . . . thank God . . . need it . . . badly ... no time 
to go into all that now. . . ." 

He muttered unintelligibly. He was not actually looking 
at his watch, and yet he gave the impression of having his 
eye on the passage of time. Suddenly he went on with a 
new spurt. 

"Don't interrupt, please. I may have made a miscal- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 29 

culation. You see, when I drop off to sleep . . . About 
that book. I started it at breakfast, sent Mrs Hyems away, 
and never moved from my chair till I'd finished it in the 
afternoon. Then, when I ripped it in two, I seemed to rip 
something in myself with it. I can't describe it any other 
way. Something in me seemed to open and take me right 
back. Before breakfast that morning I was what they call 
'settling down in life/ I'd written Esau since the Ape, and 
had lots of things planned. I'd even got a bit old-maidish 
about all this" he indicated his tidy walls. "Then piff! 
All that stage of my development seemed to go like smoke. 
No, no pain ; no physical feeling of any kind except that sud- 
den rush of bodily strength. I just tore myself in two as 
I'd torn the book, and I ran to my glass the glass I'd shaved 
in only a few hours ago." 

"And you saw ?" the words broke breathlessly from 

me. 

Slowly he shook his head. "Nothing that time. 7 
hadn't been to sleep, you s#e. A sleep's got to come in 
between. That's why you mustn't be here if I go to sleep. 
. . . No, it was the next morning I saw it/' 

Faintly I asked him what it was he had seen the next 
morning. 

But before he could reply there had come a sudden wicked 
glitter into his grey-blue eyes. His hand had once more 
gone to his upturned coat collar. And he chuckled chuckled. 

"Not this, if that's what you mean," he said with a jerk 
of his head. "That was my last adventure; the one I'm 
telling you about now was two before that." Then his 
chuckle dying away again, "You notice your face when 
you shave, don't you? the texture of your skin and so on? 
Well, that was what I saw : just a few years younger, a few 
years softer, a few years smoother. The corners of your 
eyebrows here; you know how the brow gets thin at the 
sides and those sprouts of long hair begin to come? Well, 
they'd gone. And I was scared at my strength coming 
back like that. ... I say, get me a drink, will you ? No, no, 
blast it not that stuff plain water." 



30 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I got him the water. He gulped it down. His fingertips 
were still feeling his eyebrows. Then with another spurt : 

"What's the time now ? Never mind but I keep a diary 
now, you see. Have to. Memory isn't to be trusted in a 
matter of this kind. And speaking of memory, it'll be hell's 
delight if that goes. You see, this isn't 1920 for me; it's 
1910, and I shan't have written The Hands of Esau for 
another three years yet. Or you can call it both 1920 and 
1910 if you like. Bit mixing, isn't it? It's demoniac. I 

call it " he called it something rather too violent for me 

to set down, and I have omitted one or two other strong ex- 
pressions that had begun to creep into his speech. "And 
just one other thing before I shove you out," he positively 
raced on. "I said I should die at sixteen. If it comes to the 
worst I hope to God I shall; none of your scarlet second 
childhoods for me! But how the Erebus and Terror do I 
know when sixteen will come? ... I say, where are you 

sleeping to-night? Perhaps you'd better Have some 

whisky. If only we had that damned datum point! Do 

have some whisky. Have the lot. Are those curtains 

drawn? Take my key and lock me in and give it to Mrs 
Hyems downstairs. Where's that diary of mine?" 

Then all in a moment he was on his feet. Without cere- 
mony he had thrust my hat into my hands. Comparatively 
gently, seeing what his strength was, he was hustling me 
towards the door. 

"Sorry, old man" the words came thickly "thanks 
awfully I expect I shall be all right don't bother about 
me. . . . But I shall have to move sooner or later looks so 
dashed queer one man coming in and another going out too 
comic if they arrested me on a charge of making away with 
myself. . . . See you soon yourself out quick, if you 
don't mind go, go !" 

The next moment I was out on his landing. He had 
almost carried me out. I heard the locking of his door, but 
after that, though I listened, nothing. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 31 



Presently it occurred to me that there was nothing to be 
gained by waiting. It did not seem to be an occasion for 
calling for help, and if there was something he did not wish 
me to see it was hardly a friend's part to stand there listen- 
ing for it. Slowly I descended past the closed offices of the 
cinema and variety agents and let myself out into the street. 
Involuntarily my eyes went up to his window, but no light 
showed there, and I remembered that I had drawn his cur- 
tains myself. Among a knot of people who waited for 
omnibuses I stood on the kerb, lost in thought. 

It was after eleven o'clock, and Haslemere was now out 
of the question. I could have got a bed at my Club, but I 
vaguely felt that there might be something rather more to 
the purpose to do than that. For some minutes I couldn't 
for the life of me think what it was. Four o'clock of that 
afternoon seemed an age ago. . . . Then I remembered. 
Madge Aird might at least be able to throw a little light on 
the Daphne Bassett aspect of the affair. She had said she 
would be at home that evening, and I can always have a bed 
at the Airds' for the asking. 

I mounted a bus, descended at my Club, telephoned to Alec 
Aird, seized a bag I kept ready packed in town, and by half- 
past eleven was on my way to Empress Gate. 

Alec himself opened the door to me. He was in his dinner- 
jacket, but had thrust his feet into a comfortable pair of bed- 
room slippers and was smoking his everlasting bulldog briar 
pipe. There were neither hats nor coats on the hall table, 
and he had the air of having the house to himself. 

"Thought it would be you," he said. "Lost your train? 
Give me your bag I'm scared to death of asking a servant 
to do anything after dinner these days. Come up." 

"Isn't Madge in ? She said she was going to be at home." 

"Oh, Madge calls it being at home if she's in by midnight. 
She's only at the Nobles. I don't think she's going on any- 



32 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

where. Listen" the click of a key had sounded in the 
hall "there she is, I expect." 

It was Madge. She followed us up into the drawing-room 
a moment later, gave me a glance that was half surprised and 
half amused, and proceeded to unscarf herself. Alec was 
relighting his pipe with the long twisted-paper poker. There 
was a question in the eye he cocked at her. Alec is fond 
of home, and lives a good deal of his social life vicariously, 
sending Madge to represent him and relying on her account 
of the proceedings when she gets back. This is frequently 
lively. 

"Oh, nobody much," she chattered. "The Tank Beverleys 
and the Hobsons, and Connie Fairham and her escapade, and 
Jock Diver with Mrs Hatchett. Washout of an evening ; 
makes home seem quite nice, especially with George here. 
Do give me a decent peg; they'd nothing but filthy cup." 
Then, as Alec busied himself at a tray, she shot another 
imused glance at me. "Brought the Beautiful Bear, 
George?" 

"I've just left him. I want to talk to you." 

"Alec," she said promptly, "go to bed. George and I want 
to talk." 

"Dashed if I do without a tune," Alec grumbled. "Play 
something." 

Madge crossed to the music-stool, set her whisky-and-soda 
on the sliding rest, and began to play. 

I waited in an extreme of impatience. The bus-ride to 
the Club, getting my bag, coming on to Empress Gate, greet- 
ing Alec I suppose these things had occupied me just suffi- 
ciently to put away for half an hour the weight that had been 
placed upon me ; but now, as I frowned at Alec Aird's tiles 
and cut steel fender, that weight began to reimpose itself. 
Anxiously I wondered what might be happening at that 
very moment in that other room with the drawn curtains, 
the orderly shelves and the disreputable table. 

A man who grew younger instead of older! A man who 
already was ten years younger than he had been a few 
months ago ! He had been quite right in saying, when I had 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 33 

tried to take him down to Haslemere, that that only meant 
that I had not yet taken it in. I was as far from being able 
to take it in as ever. More and more it forced itself on me 
as menacing, inimical, wild. What sane man could believe 
it? And yet, if it was not to be believed, why could I not 
shake it off ? Why did it lurk, as it were, in the half-lighted 
corners of Madge's drawing-room, allowing me all the time 
I wished in which to demonstrate it to be nonsense, and 
then, when I had left not one aspect of it uncriticised and 
undenied, reunite and face me again exactly as before? 

It happened, he said, while he slept; and he had strictly 
enjoined on me that if I saw him falling asleep I was to walk 
straight out of the place. "There are some things I won't 
ask even a pal to go through." That meant that during his 
sleep those tufts of his eyebrows disappeared and that ter- 
rifying strength descended on him again. But what hap- 
pened before then? Was the actual and physical change 
simultaneous with the inner and mental one, or was it merely 
a confirmation that came afterwards? Had he changed in 
every respect but form and feature even as I had talked to 
him ? It frightened me to think that he had ; but the more I 
thought of it the more it looked like it. 

For there had taken place a struggle within him that had 
but increased in intensity as the minutes had passed. I 
remembered the gravity with which he had pondered my sug- 
gestion that for the stuff of his novels he had been too 
directly to heaven, too straight to hell. I don't pretend to 
know any more about heaven and hell than anybody else, but 
I have the ordinary man's conception of the difference 
between good and evil, better and worse, and these principles, 
it seemed to me, had contended in him. And he had striven 
to throw the weight of his personal will into the worthier 
scale. There were things he did not wish to re-do, episodes 
he did not wish to re-live. He had even wept that he must 
be dislodged from that rock of his life to which his forty- 
five years had brought him. . . . But what had followed? 
Suddenly a wicked chuckle. Violent expressions had crept 
into his speech. A glitter had awakened in his eyes, as if, 



34 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

since the thing must be gone through with, devilry and defi- 
ance were a more manly part than weeping. "Well, if 
there's no help for it, let's be thorough one way or the other," 
I could have imagined him grimly saying. . . . 

And if this was so, what did it mean but that he had 
actually grown younger before my very eyes ? I was merely 
shown, invisibly and a little in advance, what the whole world 
would realise when his sleep had smoothed out a few more 
wrinkles, given a newer gloss to his hair and an added bright- 
ness to his eyes. . . . 

And in that case why had I come to see Madge Aird? 
What could Madge do? What could anybody do? If the 
thing was true it was inescapable. He must go back. Not 
one single stage could be avoided. Beyond these episodes 
which he dreaded lay. others that perhaps he need not dread, 
and others beyond those, and others beyond those . . . until 
he attained sixteen. . . . 

I continued to muse and Madge to play. 

At last Alec got contentedly up. He straightened the 
creases from his dinner-jacket. 

"Thanks, old girl," he said. "Well, I'm going to turn 
in, and you two can sit up and yarn about your royalties if 
you like. You look after him, Madge, and see he doesn't get 
hold of The Times before I do in the morning. Night, 
George. You know where everything is " 

And, refilling his pipe as he went, he was off. Madge 
drew up a small table between us, untied the ribbons of 
her cothurnes, rubbed the creases from her ankles, and 
worked her toes inside their sheath of silk. 

"Well?" she said; and then with a little rapturous gush, 
"I can't get the creature's beauty out of my head! That 
skin that hair and those wonderful books ! It isn't fair. 
It's too many gifts for one person. He ought to be nation- 
alised or something turned over to the public like a park." 

"I want you to tell me who Mrs Bassett is," I said. 

She bargained. "It's a swap, mind. If I tell you about 
her you tell me about him." 

"Tell me about her first." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 35 

"Well" she settled herself comfortably "I'm sorry to 
see you come down to my own scandalmongering level. Do 
you want to put her into Nonentities I Have Known? If 
so, I'll Who's-Who her for you. Here goes. Bassett, 
Daphne, nee Daphne Wade. O.D. (only daughter, George) 
of Horatio Wade, rector of somewhere in Sussex, I forget 
where, but Julia Oliphant will tell you. He, the rector, M. 
(married) I, Daphne's mother, and was M.B. (married by) 
2, the child's governess. He died in the year of his Lord I 
forget exactly when, leaving Daphne a little money, other- 
wise I can hardly see Bassett marrying her. But Hugo 
pulled it off all right. My broker knows him. He's in the 
Oil Crush now, but he was playing margins on a capital 
of twenty pounds when Daphne (excuse my vulgarity) 
caught the last bus home." 

"She's a friend of Miss Oliphant's, is she?" 

"She was. She and Julia and Rose were children to- 
gether. But I'm not sure Julia speaks to her since The 
Parthian Arrow. She meant it for him all right, whether 
he meant his for her or not. Life's full of quiet humour, 
isn't it?" 

I will abridge a little of my friend's liveliness. Indeed as 
she caught as it were out of the air something of my own 
mood, she dropped much of it herself. This was the sub- 
stance of what she told me : 

Derwent Rose had written a book called An Ape in Hell. 
I don't know, Derry never knew, I don't think anybody 
knows to this day, the real origin of the expression that 
formed its title ; and if I were a syndic of one of these New 
Dictionaries I think I should frankly confess as much, in- 
stead of merely quoting other books as saying that "A 
woman who dies without bearing a child is said to lead an 
Ape in Hell." Had I written that book, and in my own 
way, I think the four corners of the earth would have heard 
of it; as Derwent Rose had written it, in his way, he had 
merely achieved a masterpiece for the reading of generations 
to come. Our contemporary agglomeration (if Mr Goddard 
is right) of ten and twelve years old intelligences had prac- 



36 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

tically passed it over. Briefly, the book had to do with the 
merciless economic pressure that already, in 1910, made it 
difficult for people to marry in the freshness of their youth, 
and practically suicidal to have children. I cannot delay to 
say more of the book. I saw in it nothing but pity and 
beauty and tenderness and a savage and generous anger, 
and how anybody could have taken it in any other sense I 
could not imagine. 

Yet one person had done so a friend of his childhood, 
the author of The Parthian Arrow. 

"One moment," I said when Madge arrived at this point. 
"There's one thing that isn't quite clear. His book came 
out in 1910. Hers only appeared quite lately." 

"That's so," she admitted. 

"But nobody brings out a rejoinder ten years after the 
event." 

"Well she did. Read the book. Another thing: she 
started her book immediately his appeared, in 1910." 

"How do you know that?" 

"Those sleeves her heroine wears went out in 1910," was 
her characteristic reply. "She never even took the trouble 
to bring them up to date." 

So that the rancour, if there was any, was not only per- 
sistent, but seemed to have a curiously desultory quality as 
well. 

"Well go on," I said. 

But here she broke out suddenly: "But surely, George, 
even you can see where the Ape must have hurt her !" 

"As I've neither seen the lady nor read her book " 

"But you know what his book's all about. ... It was in 
her childlessness that she felt it." 

"What!" I cried. "Is anybody so stupid as to suppose 
that a man like Derwent Rose would " 

"Wait a bit. Look at it as she sees it. She married at 
twenty-nine. She's forty-one now. And nothing's hap- 
pened, and nothing's likely to. They were boy and girl 
together. Now suppose Id had an affair with somebody in 
my young days, and had married somebody else, and then 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 37 

he'd gone and rubbed it in. I don't think I should have 
written a Parthian Arrow even then, but I'm not going to 
drop dead when I hear that another woman did." 

"But ten years !" 

"Doesn't that just prove it?" she cried triumphantly. "If 
she'd had a baby the first year she'd probably have forgotten 
all about her book. But when the second year came, and 
the third, and the fourth well, thank God I've got my 
Jennie at school; but I can guess. These things get worse 
for a woman instead of better as time goes on. And now 
she's forty-one. I can't say I see very much mystery about 
those ten years." 

"But," I said, "all this rests on the assumption that at one 
time they were lovers. He certainly didn't_speak as if that 
had been so." 

"Ah, then he has spoken of her ! What did he say?" 

"Just what you'd expect him to say, of course that he's 
awfully sick he's upset her without intending to, and wants 
to explain." 

She mused. Then, with the most disconcerting prompti- 
tude, she laughed and threw her whole castle down to the 
ground. 

"Well, I suppose I'm wrong. If that was really the colour 
of the Bear's hide I don't suppose he'd be a friend of yours, 
and I certainly shouldn't 'want to meet him. It's because I'm 
probably wrong that it's so fascinating. I don't want to be 
right just yet. No, George, all I said this afternoon was 
that it was an interesting situation, and I defy you to say it 
isn't. Now tell me lots and lots about him." 

But that was impossible. Once more every sane particle 
in me was beginning to doubt whether I had been in Cam- 
bridge Circus that evening at all. Moreover, one other 
thing had struck me with something of a shock. This was 
those ten years during which Mrs Bassett had nursed her 
anger against him. Those ten years, for him, did not exist, 
or existed only with the most amazing qualifications. As 
mere time they did not exist, but as experience they did. 
For him the Arrow and the Ape were both contemporaneous 









38 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

and not. In one sense ten years separated them, but in an- 
other her retort had come back to him as it were by return of 
post. Desperately I tried to envisage a situation so utterly 
beyond reason. I tried to set it out in my mind in parallel 
columns : 

He was thirty-five when he She was thirty-one when she 
wrote his Ape. read it and began her re- 

joinder. 

He was forty-five when he She was forty-one at the time 
read the Arrow. that he read it. 

But he was thirty-five again. She was still forty-one. 

He was going on getting She would get no younger, 
younger. 

He was convinced he would She 

die at sixteen. 



But I had to give it up. It made my head ache. It 
shocked my sense of the unities. And then fortunately there 
came a revulsion. 

After all (I thought testily) Rose might consider himself 
a confoundedly lucky fellow. What, after all, was he grum- 
bling at? Because he was going to have his precious, 
precious youth all over again? His health and vigour and 
strength all over again, so that he could tear a book in two 
as I might have torn a piece of paper? His clear skin and 
glossy hair and the keen sight of his eyes once more? He 
was luckier than poor Madge and myself ! And what, if that 
American was right, was he risking? Nothing that I could 
see, unless he should go beyond that age of the maximum 
of his faculties, which he was persuaded he would not do. 
And in addition to the approaching brilliance of his youth 
it was not impossible that he would keep the whole of his 
accumulated experience as well. Not for him that old and 
bitter cry that has so often been wrung from the rest of us : 
"Oh for my life over again, knowing what I know now!" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



39 



So far, at any rate, he was having his life again, knowing 
all he knew at the turning-point. And the fellow was grum- 
bling! 

"Now tell me about him," said Madge. 

But she could not suppress a yawn as she said it. I knew 
that she, like myself, was longing to slip out of her clothes 
and to get into bed. 

"Another time," I said, wearily rising. "Which room 
are you putting me in?" 

As she rose I did not notice what it was that she caught 
up from a side-table and put under her wrap. She preceded 
me upstairs. The room into which she showed me was one 
I had occupied before, and only a minor change or two had 
since been made. One of these caught my eye. It was a 
leather-framed photograph of Miss Oliphant that stood with 
the reading-lamp on the bedside table. 

"Well, good night," Madge yawned. "They'll bring you 
tea up. Don't read too long bad for the eyes and the elec- 
tric-light bill " 

Then it was that I noticed the book she had quietly slipped 
on to the table. It was Mrs Bassett's book, The Parthian 
Arrow. 



VI 



Part of the fuss my numerous friends made about my 
Knighthood was this desire of theirs that my portrait should 
be painted and hung up in the Lyonnesse Club. Whether 
in fact I shall ever look down from those buff -washed walls 
I am at present unable to say. That rests with Miss Julia 
Oliphant. I myself merely have the feeling that if she 
doesn't paint me I hardly wish to be painted. 

Her name was not among those originally chosen by the 
Portrait Committee and submitted to me. It was Madge 
who, by half-past twelve the following day, had decided to 
include her. We were walking along together to Gloucester 
Road Station. Madge was going out to lunch. 



40 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Well, go and see her," she said. . . . "But they ought 
to have let you sleep on, George. I wish I hadn't left you 
that book." 

"Oh, I'm perfectly fit and fresh. The Boltons, you said? 
I shall go and see her this afternoon." 

"You say you don't know her well ?" 

"I've met her once." 

We entered the station. I took my friend's ticket. I saw 
her to the gate of her lift, and the attendant paused, his 
hand on the iron lattice. 

"Well," she said, "I think you'll find that won't matter. 
Let me know how you go on. Good-bye and you can tell 
the Bear from me that no decent person believes a word 
of it." 

And with a wave of her hand across the grille she sank 
with the lift into the ground. 

I walked to my Club, lunched alone,- and then, in a corner 
of the smoking-room, busied myself with my rather scanty 
recollections of the lady I was going to see that afternoon. 
Though I had only actually met her upon one occasion, we 
had a sort of hearsay acquaintance in addition. She and 
Derwent Rose had been children together, and one does not 
begin quite at the beginning with the friends of one's 
friends. Moreover, there are these people whom one may 
actually meet only at wide intervals, but over whom absence 
does not seem to have its ordinary power. Nothing seems to 
ice over, you come together again at the point where you left 
off. Perhaps because you draw your nourishment from the 
same elements, you are able to take the gaps for granted. 

Nevertheless, of my own single personal meeting with 
Miss Oliphant I could remember little but her eyes. I had 
been presented to her across a small dinner-table, with rosy- 
shaded electric candles, that had turned those great eyes 
pansy-black in the pinky gloom. I had guessed that in the 
daylight they were of the deep brown kind that, alas, so 
frequently means glasses for reading and distressing head- 
aches; but what had struck me at the time had been their 
quiet readiness and familiarity, as if they said to me, "He's 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 41 

told me about you; I wonder what he's said to you about 
me!" 

And now those same eyes, photographed in a leather 
frame, had watched me during the whole of the previous 
night. They had watched me as I had read that awful book. 
Darkly watchful and expectant, they had seen my first 
amazed incredulity, then my successive waves of anger. 
"But go on/' they had seemed ever to urge me; "there's 
much more to come !" 

And under the bedside lamp they had been still watching 
me when the maid had brought in tea and had flung the cur- 
tains aside, admitting the bright sunshine. 

Then, when the book had dropped from my hand to the 
floor, they had said, "Don't you think it would be rather a 
good thing if you were to come to see me?" 

I am not going to advertise that hateful book of Mrs 
Bassett's. If I could have torn it in two as Rose had torn 
it I should have done so. She had hardly changed his name 
for what was "Kendal Thorne" but Derwent Rose ? So I 
will merely say that to old memories she had added new and 
malicious inventions, and had produced a ridiculous gro- 
tesque of a vain and peevish childhood, an impossibly blatant 
youth, and a culmination born of her own distorted imagi- 
nation. It was for her, and not for himself, that he had 
blushed. For her sake he would have torn up every single 
copy of it if by that means it could never have been. He 
could have scolded her, shaken her, smacked her, ashamed, 
angry and helpless as one is before an ill-conditioned child 
who nevertheless has claims on one. That there could ever 
have been any passage between them her book put entirely 
out of the question. And so much for The Parthian Arrow. 

At half-past three that afternoon I was at the Boltons, 
ringing Miss Oliphant's bell. A tiny maid admitted me, 
and I was shown into a sort of alcove with a good deal of 
tapestry and bric-a-brac and brass about, the sort of things 
the artists of half a generation ago affected for the sake of 
their "colour." Nor was the studio into which I was pres- 
ently shown much different from a hundred other studios I 



42 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

had seen. These glass-roofed, indigo-blinded, north-lighted 
wells, I may say, always depress me, and had I to live in one 
of them I should instantly have a side-window cut, so that 
I might at least have a glimpse once in a while of somebody 
who passed in the outer world. 

But somehow the place suited Miss Oliphant. Perhaps 
it was the north light. Artists choose the north light be- 
cause it varies little, and there was something about her that 
didn't vary very much either. She came through a portiere- 
hung door, and as she stood there for a moment, not sur- 
prised (for I had telephoned that I was coming), but with 
that familiarity and expectancy once more in her dark eyes, 
I was able to check this cool and composed impression of her 
with my former one of over-lustrous eyes in the pinky gloom 
of the shaded lamps of the dinner-table. 

Her hair, like her eyes, was dark; but she had a habit 
rather than a style of dressing it. It was piled in a high 
mass over her white brow, quite neatly, but rather as if to 
have it out of the way and done with than as making the 
most of its rich glossy treasure. A dateless, but by no means 
inappropriate tea-gown of filmy grey with a gold thread 
somewhere in it showed her long harmonious lines of limb 
and allowed her breasts to be guessed at; and the ripeness 
of her shoulders set off her long and almost too slender 
neck. She had cool and beautiful hands, sleeved to the 
wrist ; but the daylight added to her years. At our former 
meeting I should have said she was thirty-five. Now I saw 
that she could hardly be less than forty. 

She took my hand for a moment, smiled, but without 
speaking, and began to busy herself at a Benares tray. She 
reinserted the plug of an electric kettle, which immediately 
broke into a purr. She listened for a moment with her ear 
at the kettle, and then suddenly filled the teapot. She spoke, 
once more smiling, through the little cloudlet of steam,. 

"Do sit down," she said, indicating a "property" curule 
chair. "Well, how's Derry? Have you seen him lately?" 

I made a note of the name she too called him by, and said, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 43 

Yes, I had seen him yesterday. "I'm sorry to say he seemed 
worried," I added. 

"Oh? What's worrying him?" she asked, withdrawing 
the plug from the wall and popping a cosy over the pot. It 
was a French cosy, a dainty little porcelain Marie An- 
toinette, with a sac and a padded and filigreed petticoat, and 
I remember thinking that if Miss Oliphant ever went to 
fancy-dress dances the costume of her cosy would have 
suited her very well. 

"Have you read that horrible woman's horrible book?" 
I asked her point-blank. 

"The Parthian Arrow? Yes, I've read it," she said 
equably. 

"Well, I should say that's one of the things that's wor- 
rying him," I replied. "I've just read it, and the taste of it's 
in my mouth still." 

She considered the teapot. "We'll give it two minutes 
and then take the bag out," she remarked. Then, "Oh yes, 
I've read it. I don't think she need have written it either. 
But it is written, and there's an end of it. As for Deny, 
anybody who knows him knows that his whole life's been 
one marvellous mistake after another. He dodges it some- 
how in his books, but he knows nothing whatever about 
women in real life. Never did. Sugar?" 

This was hardly what Madge Aird had led me to expect. 
I had gathered from her that Miss Oliphant and Mrs Bas- 
sett had more or less fallen out about that book; in fact 
Madge had definitely said, "I'm not sure that they speak 
now." But here was Miss Oliphant, Rose's friend, not only 
quite inadequately angry on the one hand, but on the other 
talking about Rose's ignorance of women almost as if he 
had been as much to blame as Mrs Bassett herself. . . . 
Moreover, when a woman tells a man that another man 
knows nothing about women, the man who is spoken to in- 
variably tries the words on himself to see whether he too is 
included in the disparagement. My understanding of Miss 
Oliphant, such as it was, suddenly failed me. I looked at 



44 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

her again to see whether, and if so where, I had made a 
mistake. 

She was doing a perfectly innocent little thing, one that 
at any other time I might have found charming. Her long 
fingers were slyly lifting the tops of sandwich after sand- 
wich in search of the kind she wanted. A child does the 
same thing with sweets and sometimes goes beyond mere 
peeping. But the infantility of the gesture jarred on me, 
and jarred no less when, her eyes meeting mine, she laughed, 
pouted, and said : "Well, after all, I cut them." I did not 
smile. Her coolness and unconcern when a friend was 
savagely attacked disappointed me. As for the portrait that 
was to have been the excuse for my call on her, I was glad 
now that it hadn't been mentioned. I now doubted whether 
I should mention it. I had supposed her to be a woman > 
not merely a female painter who gave a male sitter tea in 
hsr studio. 

"I don't understand you," I said, a little curtly I'm afraid. 
"You speak as if that book was a mere point of view to 
which she's entitled." 

Again she smiled at me, as if she liked me very much. 

"Well, she has her point of view. It's evident that you 
don't know Mrs Bassett." 

"Her book's told me all about her that I ever want to 
know." 

"So," she laughed, "you're just showing how cross you 
can be?" 

At that moment there came a ring at the bell. She was 
on her feet instantly, as if to forestall the little maid. With 
less tact than ever, I thought, her fingertips touched my 
shoulder lightly as she passed by me. It was only then that 
I noticed that the Benares tray held a third cup and saucer. 

The next moment she had shown Mrs Bassett herself in. 

I am going to show Mrs Bassett in and out of this story 
again with all possible speed. Only once have I set eyes on 
the lady since, and that was in a moment when I was far 
too occupied with other matters to give her more than a 
glance. She came in, a fluff of cendre hair, surmounted by 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 45 

a hat made of a thousand brilliant tiny blue feathers. This 
was intended to enhance the pallid blue of her eyes; as a 
matter of fact it completely extinguished it. She was a 
Christmas-tree of silver stole and silver muff, toy dog, and 
a pale blue padded and embroidered object that I presently 
discovered to be the dog's quilt. I was presented to her, 
bowed, and suddenly found myself alone with her. Miss 
Oliphant had picked up the teapot and was nowhere to be 
seen. 

And this was the kind of arch ripple that proceeded from 
the author of The Parthian Arrow: 

"Oh, how d'you do, Sir George? Really a red-letter day. 
Sir George Coverham and Julia Oliphant together. Quite a 
galaxy or is galaxy wrong and does it take more than two 
to make one, like the Milky Way? Oh, Pup petty, my stole! 
You mustn't mind if I ask you thousands of questions I 
always do when I meet distinguished people peep behind 
the scenes, eh? Pup petty, I shall slap you!" a tap on the 
beast's boot-button of a nose. "So handsome, Julia is, don't 
you think? Not in a picture-postcard sort of way, perhaps, 
but such character (don't you call it?) and such a lovely 
figure ! I know if I were a man I should fall head over ears 
in love with her ! Do you mind, Sir George ?" 

She meant, not did I mind falling in love with Miss Oli- 
phant, but did I mind taking the dog's cradle and quilt from 
her arms. I did so, made my bow as Miss Oliphant ap- 
peared again, and moved quickly towards the alcove where 
I had left my hat. 

But it was Miss Oliphant herself who stopped me, and 
stopped me not so much by her quietly-spoken words -"I 
want you to stay" as by the sudden command in her eyes. 
This was quite unmistakable. For the first time since I had 
entered her studio I saw the woman I had expected to see. 
'hat look was too imperious altogether to disobey. I sat 
lown again. 

I swear that Mrs Bassett wore that silver stole twenty 
lifferent ways in as many minutes. The air about her was 

iselessly in motion. If Puppetty was in his quilted cradle 



46 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

she had him out ; if he was out she put him back again and 
tucked him in. She kissed and scolded the wretched beast, 
and discussed Miss Oliphant's pictures and my own books. 
Only her own book she never once mentioned. And I sat, 
saying as little as possible, looking from one to the other 
of the two women. 

Then, out of the very excess of the contrast between them, 
light began to dawn on me. All at once I found myself 
saying to myself, "This can't be what it appears to be. 
There's something behind it all. Look at them sitting there, 
and believe if you can that the one who's pouring out tea 
couldn't, for sheer womanliness, eat the other alive! Look 
at her! She's a whole packed- full history behind her, and 
one that's by no means at an end yet. It radiates from every 
particle of her. Of course 'Miss Oliphant cares just as 
much as you do when her friend's attacked. She's a differ- 
ent way of showing it, that's all. See if she isn't putting 
that other one through her paces now, and for your benefit. 
She's not keeping you here without a reason. Sit still and 
watch." 

I repeat that I said this to myself. 

And from that moment I knew I was on the right track. 

At last Mrs Bassett rose to go. I assure you that I was 
on my feet almost before she was, for I knew that my talk 
with Miss Oliphant was not now to be resumed it was to 
begin. The author of The Parthian Arrow was piled up 
with quilts, cradles and Puppetty again, and I need say no 
more about the thickness of her skin than that she gave me 
her telephone number and asked me to go and see her. I 
bowed, and Julia Oliphant towered over her as she showed 
her out. 

Seldom in my life have I held a door open for a woman 
with greater pleasure. 

The outer door closed, and Miss Oliphant reappeared and 
crossed slowly to the settee. I now knew beyond all doubt 
that I was right. She seemed suddenly exhausted. She 
passed her hand wearily over those too-lustrous eyes. List- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 47 

lessly she told me to smoke if I wanted to. Then she con- 
tinued to sit in silence. 

At last she roused a little. She turned her eyes on me. 

"Well now you've seen the author of The Parthian Ar- 
row." 

I made no remark. 

"And," she continued, "you did exactly as I expected 
exactly what a man would do." 

"What was that?" 

"You'd one look, and then you turned away." 

"One look was enough." 

"Oh, you all think you've got rid of a thing when you've 
turned your backs on it. That's the way men quarrel. 'Oh, 
So-and-So's a bounder; blackball him and have done with 
it/ And so long as he isn't in your Club he doesn't exist 
for you." 

I pondered, my eyes on her old-fashioned studio-trappings. 
"Well, say that's a man's way of defending his friend. 
What's a woman's?" 

Our eyes met once more, and I knew a very great deal 
about Miss Julia Oliphant by the time she had uttered her 
next six words. 

"A woman has her to tea," she replied. 

Then, as if something within her would no longer be pent 
up, she broke into rapid speech. 

"Oh, I know you men! You're all too, too kind! For- 
give me if I say I think you like the feeling. It pleases you, 
and you don't stop to think that it puts all the more on us. 
You make your magnificent gesture, but we have to go 
round picking up after you. Do you think I'd let that 
woman out of my sight ? . . . But I'm sorry I had to trick 
you a little." 

"To trick me?" 

"Yes, when you first came in. I saw you were puzzled 
and disappointed in me. You see, when a person's coming 
to tea and may be here any moment you have to keep some 
sort of hand on yourself. It isn't the time to indulge your 



48 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

real feelings. So I took no chances. I'm sorry if I threw 
you off the track. . . . Well, you've seen her, and you've 
read her book. Tell me where you think the toy dog comes 
in." 

She was speaking vehemently enough now. She did not 
give me time to reply. 

"I'll tell you. You and Derry all the decent men a toy 
dog fetches you every time. You're all so, so kind ! You 
see tragedies and empty cradles and all the rest of it straight 
away. And perhaps once in a while you're right. But you 
can take it from me you're wrong this time. I've known her 
all my life, and I don't believe she ever for a single moment 
wanted a child. She'd never have put up with the bother of 
one. So Derry's worrying all about nothing. All that sticks 
in her throat is that she imagines she's been pilloried as not 
being able to have one. Her vanity was hurt, not her moth- 
erhood at all. Now that she's got rid of that bookful of bile 
I think she's a perfectly happy woman. Her days are just 
one succession of shopping and matinees and calls and mani- 
curing and Turkish baths and getting rid of Bassett's money. 
It was just the same during the war flag-days and driving 
convalescents about, and bits of canteen- work and com- 
mittees by the score. . . . Oh, Derry needn't worry his 
head; tragedy's quite out of the picture! Let's have the 
truth. No weeping Niobe just scents and powders and 
Puppetty and an imaginary grievance that's her." 

I think it is my own sex that is the merciful one, at any 
rate to woman. Man has made radiant veils for her, has 
shut his eyes to this or that stark aspect of her, because the 
world has to go on by his efforts and he cannot afford to 
begin his scheme of things all over again every time he sees 
the red light of the prime in a woman's eyes. Julia Oliphant 
had spoken cruelly, ruthlessly, without decency; and I now 
knew why. No woman cares that a wrong is done in the 
abstract. Her bitterness and hate ever mean that someone 
dear to her has been subjected to indignity and pain. And 
suddenly I rose from my seat, crossed to the settee, and, 
sitting down by Julia Oliphant's side, did a thing I am not 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 49 

in the habit of doing upon a short acquaintance. I took 
both her hands into mine. 

With as little hesitation as I had taken them her fingers 
closed on mine. And I fancied the quick strong pressure 
answered the question I was going to ask her before ever 
my lips spoke it. It had all been there months before all 
prepared and promised in that first steady intimate look 
across the rosy-shaded candles of that dinner-table. I spoke 
quite quietly. 

"Isn't there something I'd better know and hadn't you 
better tell me now ?" I said. 

Again that firm cool pressure of the fingers. The tired 
eyes looked gratefully into mine. 

"I always knew you'd be like that if only " 

"Then tell me. Because when you've done I've something 
to tell you." 

God knows what fires were instantly ablaze in the depths 
of the eyes. 

"About him ?" broke instantly from her lips. 

"You tell me first." 

The fires died down, and the voice dropped again. 

"Tell you? I don't mind telling you. ... Of course; 
all my life; ever' since we were children together. Not that 
he ever gave me a thought. But that made no difference." 

And having said it she had said all. I saw the beginning 
of the fires again. She went straight on. "Now what were 
y*it going to tell me ?" 

Remember it was not yet eighteen hours since Derwent 
Rose had thrust me out of his door, torn between an angel 
and a devil within himself. But what are eighteen hours 
to a man who has two scales of time? To him they might 
represent years of experience. He had clung desperately to 
his better man, but who knew? already he might be less 
accessible to the angelic. If I was not already too late, to 
catch him while he was of that same mind and will was the 
important thing. If this woman who had just told me with 
such touching simplicity that she had loved him all her life 
was indeed his good angel, it seemed to me that here was 



50 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

her work waiting 1 for her. I saw her as none the less loving 
that she could vehemently hate for the protection of her 
love. That she would fly to him the moment her mind 
grasped his story I had not an instant's doubt. Nor did I 
stop to consider that I might be betraying something he did 
not wish known. It was no time for subtleties. Remember- 
ing his anguish, I did not think he would refuse any help 
that was to be had. Here by my side was his cure if cure 
there was to be found. 

Still with her hands in mine, I took my plunge. 

The first time she interrupted me was very much where 
I had interrupted him. She wanted to know, apart from 
mere imaginary changes that might have been due to varia- 
ble health, what visible proofs there were of all this. I 
wished to spare her those two ( ) 's on Rose's neck, but she 
smiled ever so faintly. 

"Yes, you're all nice dears. But I know perfectly well the 
kind of thing it might be. So don't let that trouble you. 
It's important, you know." 

So I told her. She merely nodded. "He never did know 
anything about women," she said. "Go on." 

Her next interruption came when I spoke of his tearing 
*he book, though this was more of a confirmation than a true 
interruption. 

"He was a perfectly glorious athlete," she remarked 
calmly, "but he always hated pot-hunting, and later of course 
his books interfered with his training a good deal. I re- 
member once . . . but never mind. I wonder if we shall 
have all that over again ?" 

"Then you've managed to swallow the monstrous thing 
so far ?" I said in wonder. 

"I told you his life had been one marvellous mistake after 
another. Go on," she replied. 

But as I proceeded her calm became less and less assured. ( 
I was purposely omitting from my account such elements as 
might tend to agitate her, but she seemed to divine this, and 
perhaps she thought I suppressed more than I did. Sud- 
denly she broke out : 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 51 

"Never mind all that about ratios. I don't know anything 
about ratios. The point is, when does he expect the next 
attack?" 

"I hardly know I rather think " I began, now quite 

violently holding her hands, which she had tried to with- 
draw. She had also attempted to rise. 

"Soon? A month? A week? To-morrow?" she de- 
manded. 

"He's not sure himself, but I'm rather afraid " 

She allowed me to say no more. She plucked her hands 
from mine and ran out of the studio. I heard the single 
faint "ting" of a telephone-receiver being lifted from its 
fork, and a moment later, "Is that the taxi-rank? The Bol- 
tons Miss Oliphant as quick as you can." 

Three minutes later she reappeared. She had thrown a 
wrap over her tea-gown, and was hurriedly tying a scarf 
under her chin. 

"Isn't that taxi here yet? How long should intake from 
here to Cambridge Circus?" 

"Twenty or twenty-five minutes." 

"You'd better come with me. You can tell me the rest on 
the way. . . . What a time he is taking! Wouldn't it be 
quicker to pick one up outside? Listen no, that's only 
letters. Perhaps the man's waiting and hasn't rung let's 
wait at the street entrance here's your hat " 

She opened the inner door, kicked aside the letters on the 
floor, and sped along the corridor. The taxi glided up as we 
reached the entrance. 

The next minute we were on our way. 

The streets were full and our progress was slow. People 
were hurrying to their homeward tubes, running along in 
knots of a dozen or a score at the tails of the slowing-down 
omnibuses. 

"Surely there ought to be a quicker way than along Ox- 
ford Street at this hour!" she exclaimed petulantly. Then 
she threw herself back in the corner. Apparently she had 
forgotten all about the rest of my story. One idea and one 
only possessed her haste, haste. I am perfectly sure that 



52 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

had she been in the driver's seat not an uplifted blue and 
white cuff in London would have stopped her. 

And her restlessness communicated itself to me. I too 
felt that in talking to Madge Aird the previous evening, in 
reading that wretched book all night, in not having told Miss 
Oliphant straight away what I had to say, I had lost precious 
time. Some step ought to have been taken quicker im- 
mediately 

"Damn !" I said as another extended arm stopped us ; and 
Julia Oliphant sank back, biting her lip. 

Then an endless wait at the corner of Charing Cross 
Road. . . . 

But even that taxi-drive had to come to an end. 

"It's just near here, isn't it?" she asked, her hand on the 
door; and I sprang out. It would be quicker to walk the 
last few yards. These few yards, however, nearly cost Miss 
Oliphant her life, for I only just succeeded in dragging 
her out of the way of a newsboy's bicycle that darted like a 
minnow from behind a heavy dray. We stood at Rose's 
door. 

I pressed the button of his bell, which was the third of a 
little vertical row of four; but even as I did so I noticed 
something unusual about its appearance. The little brass 
slip that bore his name had gone. I was unable to say 
whether it had been there on the previous evening, as he 
himself had admitted me, but gone it was now, and from 
certain indications it seemed not to have been unscrewed, 
but wrenched off. My heart sank, but I was careful to 
conceal from Miss Oliphant the foreboding I felt. 

"He may be out," I muttered. "I'll ring for the house- 
keeper." 

To fetch Mrs Hyems up from her basement took more 
time, but at last she appeared, and a look of mingled per- 
plexity and relief came into the eyes that met mine. 

"Mr Rose?" I said. 

"Aren't you the gentleman as came last night, sir?" she 
said. "Didn't he go out with you? I heard you come down ; 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 53 

about eleven o'clock it would be; and he didn't seem to be 
not a minute after you " 

"Hasn't he been back since?" 

"I can't make it out, sir. He hasn't been to bed, and there 
was a note for me on his table this morning. Paid all up he 
has, but not a word about his milk nor his washing nor his 
letters nor when he's coming back. And he left his door 
open, which that isn't his way. Perhaps you'd like to come 
up, sir?" 

We followed her up the stairs. His door still stood wide 
open, and as far as I could see his room was exactly as I 
had left it last night. The medicine-ball still lay where it 
had rolled on the floor, the cushions of the sofa still bore 
the imprint of his body. I turned to the caretaker. 

t'You say he's paid you, Mrs Hyems ?" 
'To the end of the week, sir, except for his washing aud 
erer." 
'And he's left no address?" 
'No more than I tell you, sir." 
'Then," I said briskly, "I should just tidy his room and 
close his door. He'll probably be back to-night. If he isn't 
let me know. Here's my address." 

But as I said it I seemed to see again those marks where 
his name-plate had been. Derry always carried, suspended 
in his trousers-pocket by a little swivelled thong, one of those 
fearsome-looking compendium knives that consist of half 
a dozen tools in one. The plate had not been unscrewed; 
what he had done had been to thrust one of these blades 
behind it and to rip it bodily from its bed. I pictured it all 
only too clearly. Myself carefully watched out of the way 
a cheque hurriedly written a gulp of whisky perhaps and 
the call of the streets a dash downstairs with his door left 
open behind him a minute's feverish work over the plate. 
. . . He had left his books, his papers, his furniture, his 
medicine-ball. But his name he had taken away, and I did 
not think that those rooms in Cambridge Circus would see 
Derwent Rose's face any more. 



PART II 
THE STERN CHASE 



Lost: A man with a brass name-plate in his pocket, prob- 
ably bent in wrenching. Personal appearance difficult to 
describe, because something has happened to him that does 
not happen to the generality of people. When last seen ap- 
peared to be about thirty-five, but may look younger. Was 
wearing dark blue suit and shirt with torn neckband. 

Missing: Derwent Rose, novelist, late of 120 bis, Cam- 
bridge Circus, W.C. Age forty-five, tall and very strongly 
built, eyes grey-blue, hair chestnut-brown, strikingly hand- 
some features. In possession of money, as his banking 
account was closed the morning after his disappearance. 
Served with Second Battalion Royal Firthshire Fusiliers. 
Is thought not to have left the country. 

For Disposal: Quantity of black oak furniture, comprising 
Jacobean oval table with beaded edge (copy), six upright 
chairs, tallboy, chest ; also large brass bedstead, drawers, two 
pairs heavy damask- curtains, crockery, plate, etc., etc. Also 
several thousand volumes, including small collection medical 
works, and others Curious and Miscellaneous. The whole 
may be viewed at 120 bis, Cambridge Circus, W.C. Apply 
Caretaker. 

So the announcements might have run had there been any ; 
but there were none. I saw to that. The police are excellent 
people, but I considered this a little out of their line and did 
not call them in. As for the furniture and effects, they re- 
mained for the present where they were, I paying his rent 
and putting his key into my pocket. As for Derwent Rose, 
novelist, aged forty-five, it might be months before anybody 
missed him, and it would be supposed that he had gone into 

57 



58 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

retirement to write a book. As for the man with the torn 
neckband and the brass name-plate in his pocket, a prudent 
person would be a little careful how he tried to identify him. 
You see what I mean. Julia Oliphant and myself were in a 
class apart; we should know him on sight, since we knew 
what had happened to him and what we might expect. But 
nobody else knew, nobody in the whole wide world. There- 
fore they would be wise to look at him twice before accost- 
ing him. Nobody wants to be certified and locked up, and 
that was what might conceivably happen if anybody insisted 
too much on resemblance or identity in the case of a man 
who was obviously fifteen or twenty years younger than he 
could be proved to be. Much safer to call the fancied re- 
semblance a coincidence and let it go at that. 

Therefore exit Derwent Rose, novelist, aged forty-five. 

And enter in his stead who? 

Exactly. That was the whole point. He had not entered. 
He was somewhere on Life's stage, but behind, or in the 
wings, or up in the flies, or down underneath the traps. He 
was his own understudy, but whatever lines he spoke, what- 
ever gestures he made, happened "off." The call-boy ran 
hither and thither calling his name, but in vain. Oblivion 
had taken him. It had taken him so completely that he 
needed to dress no part, to alter himself with no< make-up. 
He was as free to walk about in the limelight as you or I. 
Freer far freer 

For where was the birth certificate of this man who had 
lost ten years in a few months and for all anybody knew 
might now have lost another ten twelve twenty? Of 
what use was his dossier in the Military Records Office? 
Of what value was his name on the register, his will if he 
had made one, his signed contracts, his insurance policy? 
Of what validity was the photograph on his passport, or who 
could call him into Court as a witness ? What clergyman or 
Justice of the Peace could certify that he had known him 
for a number of years? What musty and mendacious file in 
Somerset House dare produce a record to show that a man 
who was obviously so many years younger had been born 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 59 

in the year 1875 ? Free, this Apollo for beauty and Ajax for 
- strength ? As far as documents were concerned he was 
more than free. He had side-stepped them all, and was the 
only completely free man alive. 

But he was not free from Julia Oliphant and myself, for 
we knew all about it. His own brother he might fool, had 
he had one ; he might delude the nurse who had rocked him 
as a child were she still alive; but us he could not deceive. 
With us his unimaginable alibi would not serve nor his 
unique anonymity go down. If he wished to know us, he 
could come up to us (but to us only) with a proffered hand 
and an ordinary "How do you do." But if he did not wish 
to know us he had us to fear. We knew his secret. 

But nobody else nobody in the whole round world else. 



II 

That, in its essence, and speaking very roughly, was the 
position ; but it is worth examining a little more particularly. 
I will leave aside for the moment such questions as why we 
wanted to find him, whether we ought to try to find him, 
whether, if a man chose to expunge his identity like that he 
had not a perfect right to do so. I will assume that he was 
to be sought and found. On that assumption I reasoned as 
follows : 

Here somewhere was a man of unknown age and un- 
certain personal appearance. When last seen he was, and 
looked, thirty-five, but he may now be, and look, any age up 
to, or rather down to, sixteen. That depended entirely on 
the rate of those backward jerks of which he himself had 
failed to find the ratio. But where begin to look for him? 
At what Charing Cross or Clapham Junction, where all the 
world passes sooner or later, wait for him? What tube 
station watch? Round what street corner lurk? Examine 
it, I say, a little more closely. 

And take first his two scales of time. As a matter of in- 
controvertible fact he was living in the year 1920. In the 



60 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

year 1920 a big and handsome and athletic man was living 
a daily life, presumably somewhere in London. But for 
him that year was 1910, and continually, day by day and 
hour by hour, he must be struggling to reconcile those two 
periods. It could make no difference that he knew that he 
was living in both years simultaneously. A hundred times 
a day he might say to himself, "I quite understand ; this is 
both 1910 and 1920; I've got them perfectly clear and sep- 
arate in my head." But the hundred-and-first time would 
catch him tripping. He would stumble over some sudden 
and unexpected trifle. Let me make this clear by means of a 
small incident that happened to myself. Not long ago I walked 
into Charbonnel's for a cup of tea, and was passing through 
the shop on the ground floor and about to mount the stairs 
when I was politely fetched back. I was told, with a smile 
that might have been given to a man just returned from 
Auckland or Mesopotamia, that the upper room had been 
closed for some time. I had not been in Charbonnel's since 
the early days of the war, and was looking, in 1920, for a 
Charbonnel's that had ceased to exist. 

So Derwent Rose, however much he was on his guard, 
would once in a while find himself looking for something 
that no longer existed. 

Next, there was the question of money common money, 
and how much of it he had got. Obviously, and supposing 
he was to be found, it was no good looking for him in places 
where he could not possibly afford to be. He would be 
found in a cheaper place or a more expensive one according 
to the state of his purse. I had no means of knowing how 
much money he had withdrawn from the bank. I had never 
known much about his finances except that sometimes he had 
been hard-up, at others comparatively "flush," but that he 
had never, as far as I knew, borrowed. Thus the vulgarest 
of all considerations had an important bearing on our very 
first step : Where to look for him ? 

Next there was to be considered a combination of these 
things the factor of money-plus-time. Say he had drawn 
one hundred pounds or five hundred pounds from the bank 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 61 

for all I knew it might have been either, or more, or less. 
Well, we all know that a sum that was sufficient for a man 
in 1910 does not go very far in 1920. There has been a war. 
... So was he haunting expensive places, having (as might 
have been said of anybody but him) "a short life and a gay 
one," or would he be found spinning out his Bradburys as 
long as possible on a modester scale? Nay, was he even 
living on his capital at all ? Was it not possible that he had 
found employment of some kind? If so, of what kind? 
They ask few questions about identity at the dock-gates ; was 
that it, and was he to be looked for in a workman's early- 
morning tram ? Or had he, a man without a shred of paper 
to be his warranty, managed to talk somebody into something 
bigger, and was he one of these ephemeral Business Bubbles, 
lording it for a few months in somebody else's car and float- 
ing the higher because of the hotness of the air inside him? 
I did not think, by the way, that either of these last two 
things was very likely ; but nothing was more impossible than 
anything else, and I am merely trying to show the size of the 
haystack in which we must hunt for our needle. 

The merest glance at the problem made it plain that the 
only starting point was his last actually-known age thirty- 
five. All else was the blindest guesswork. And it was 
equally plain that the best likelihood of finding him lay in the 
chance that he would more or less repeat (or seek to repeat) 
his former experiences at that age. Past associations might 
pull him, he might frequent some places rather than others, 
some persons or class of persons rather than others. The 
question was, could his life at thirty-five be so reconstructed 
that this hope should not be too slender ? That was my idea, 
and I began to ransack my memory in search of indications 
that might further it. 

But almost from the start I despaired. Sketched thus 
airily the thing had a deluding look of logic and simplicity ; 
but the first contact with actuality scattered all to the winds 
again. For example, I have hinted at an echo of an earlier 
wildness that had for some reason or other overtaken him 
again at thirty-five ; but when I came to examine it I found 



62 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

that I knew almost nothing at all about it. He had always 
had the decency to keep these things very much to himself. I 
had not the vaguest idea of who his companions had been, 
what his haunts. Added to this was the difficulty that I was 
approaching the question in reverse. He had slept since I 
had last seen him, and, sleeping, had presumably once more 
slipped back. But how far back? He might be (so to 
speak) at the crest of the wave, farther back still at the be- 
ginning of it, or even past it altogether no longer the man 
of An Ape in Hell, but him of The Vicarage of Bray. It was 
even not impossible that he was sixteen and dead. ... So 
all that I could do was to nail myself firmly down to thirty- 
five and as much of him at that time as I could remember or 
ascertain. 

And instantly the question loomed up largely : "What about 
Julia Oliphant ? Hadn't she better be left out of this, at any 
rate for the present?" 

Now my position in the world practically forces the con- 
ventional attitude on me. All things considered, I think I 
should adopt that attitude in any case, for I have only to 
look at any other one and my hesitation doesn't last long. 
But at the same time I do go to lectures on such subjects as 
Relative and Absolute Age, and in other things, as I have 
explained, I liked at that time to keep in step and abreast. 
I have even made an attempt to understand the mystery that 
is called the Thermionic Valve. 

But neither valve nor age theory is newer or stranger to 
me than the change that seems to have come over the sex- 
relationship during these last years. I trust that on the 
whole I manage to maintain a happy medium it is the 
dickens of a thing to have sprung on one latish in life but 
I only know that I myself, old-fashioned as I am, sometimes 
find myself discussing with the nicest women, and as freely 
as I should discuss them with a man, the may I say the 
"rummest" subjects? And as for Julia Oliphant's attitude 
to all this newness, I will only say that while she might have 
been ten years behind Madge Aird in matters of dress, she 
was not ten minutes behind her in anything else. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 63 

But discussions "in the air" with her were one thing, but 
discussions of an actual Derwent Rose at thirty-five quite 
another. "Oh, I know perfectly well the sort of thing it 
might have been, so don't let that worry you," she had said, 
and for once, just once, I had had to be precise. But once 
was enough. Call it the old fossil in me if you will, but it 
makes a very great difference when a woman has said, as 
simply as Julia had spoken, "Of course ; all my life ; not that 
he ever gave me a thought, but that doesn't matter." 

For those few words had placed us, instantly and beyond 
all recall, on a footing of the last intimacy. They had re- 
vealed her once for all, and the matter need never be re- 
ferred to between us again. And as to a swimmer the 
wavelet that slaps his face and fills his mouth with salt is 
of more importance than all the immensities below, so we 
kept to the level of the trifles of life. Often, at a word or 
a look, we were ready to quarrel. Perhaps, in view of those 
still depths beneath, our bickering was a necessity and a 
refuge. 

Ill 

That there was much of my search that I should have to 
conduct without her was definitely brought home to me on 
the very first evening when I took a stroll through the region 
of the West End theatres, still wearing the suit I had worn 
all day. I ought to say that as I was paying his rent for 
him I had allowed myself the use of his rooms, and for the 
present 120 bis, Cambridge Circus, was one of my addresses. 
There was always the chance that he might have forgotten 
something in 1920 of which he had need in 1910, and that he 
might steal in, if only for a moment, any dark night when 
things were quiet. 

It was a beautiful London evening, not quite twilight. A 
tender after-glow lay over the Circus, and, if jewels can 
grow, the lamps might have been jewels a few moments 
after their birth. It was one of those evenings when you 
delay even to dine, knowing that when you come out again 



64 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

the glamour will have gone and you will have seen a loved 
and familiar thing once more and once less. So I strolled, 
scanning faces, sometimes remembering what I was scanning 
them for, sometimes forgetting again. It might happen that I 
should find myself suddenly looking into his face. Of course 
the chances werje millions to one that I should not. 

I walked as far as the Hippodrome, and then turned and 
crossed the road. Even in those few minutes the sky was 
no longer the same. It was mysteriously bluer, and the soft 
crocus-quality of the lamps had gone. I found myself op- 
posite a doorway with a coronet of lights over it and a tall 
commissionaire beneath them. A man had just gone in. He 
was not in the least like Rose, and there was no reason why I 
should have followed him more than any other man; but I 
did follow him, not into the bright and crowded and smoky 
ground-floor room of which I had a. glimpse, but up a stair- 
case with brass-edged treads and the word "Lounge" at the 
bottom of it. I found myself in an empty upper room with 
leather-covered sofas set deeply into the walls, numerous 
little tables with green-tiled tops, and a small quadrant of a 
bar in one corner. The man I had followed was already at 
this bar, and the young woman behind it was preparing his 
drink. 

"Bit quiet, isn't it?" I heard him say. He had rather a 
pleasing sort of face, of the kind that a year or two ago one 
associated with the brimmed hat of an Australian trooper. 
"Say, is this the best London can do for a man nowadays?" 

"London nowadays!" the young woman declared with 
contempt. "I should say so! Where've you been this long 
time? Where the bluebottles go to in the winter I suppose. 
Don't you know'this is a tea-room now ?" 

"Goon!" 

"A tea-room, I tell you. Ladies not admitted after five. 
The new sign'll be up to-morrow. Oh, you can bring your 
old grannie here now !" 

"Bit different from Stiff Brown's time then !" 

"Different! " 

The conversation continued, in the same sense. It was 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 65 

precisely my Charbonnel's experience over again. What- 
ever notoriety the place might once have possessed, it wag 
now a perfectly reputable resort, a tea-room in the after- 
noons, and in the evenings to all intents and purposes the 
equivalent of my own Club. The woman behind the bar wore 
a wedding ring, and I distinctly liked the look of her com- 
panion. And yet, with dramatic suddenness, the whole pros- 
pect before me seemed to be all at once illimitably enlarged. 

For if a normal man like my friend at the counter was 
struck by the changes of the past five years, how must they 
strike a man who had gone through an experience so utterly 
abnormal as that of Derwent Rose? Change is the normal 
condition of all things; the human mind is marvellously able 
to adapt itself to altered circumstances in a week, a day, an 
hour; memories lose their fresh edge, novelties amuse and 
give way to newer novelties still. But all this is only for 
men who march forward with their fellows. For the man 
who marches backwards all is turned round. The memories 
stir and revive and bloom again, the forgotten is re-remem- 
bered, laid ghosts begin to walk. The dulled brass edges of 
staircases become bright again with the rubbing of light and 
frail and vanished feet, recessed sofas in upper rooms thrill 
and rustle with whispers and frou-frou and laughter again. 
Doubtless the living, 1920 successors of those ghosts were to 
be found elsewhere, but unless I sought Derry in 1910 1 knew 
not where to begin to look for him. Musingly I descended 
the stairs and walked slowly back towards the Criterion 
again. I no longer watched faces. The whole thing seemed 
hopeless. I had about as much chance of finding Derwent 
Rose in London as I had of catching one given drop of a 
summer shower. 

And then, in that very moment, I saw him. 

Or rather it was the hansom that I saw first. It had just 
started forward with the release of the traffic opposite 
Drew's, at the top of Lower Regent Street. 

Now a hansom in Piccadilly Circus to-day is perhaps not 
the rarity that a sedan-chair would be ; nevertheless hansoms 



66 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

are comparatively few, and therefore conspicuous. The 
padded leaves of this one were thrown back, and before I 
saw him I had already seen a white-sheathed ankle and a 
white satin slipper. 

Then he leaned forward for a moment. 

It was unmistakably he. 

The hansom passed along with the stream. 

Unmistakably he and yet, mingled with the perfect fa- 
miliarity, there was a change that I could rot immediately 
analyse. Then (I am telling you what flashed instantane- 
ously through my mind in that fraction of time before I had 
dashed after him) then I had it! Familiar, yet not alto- 
gether familiar! Of course! 

His beard! 

At one time in the past Derwent Rose had worn a beard, 
the softest sprouting of curling golden-brown. In certain 
lights it had been little more than a glint that had scarcely 
hid the contours beneath, and it had made him the living 
image of Du Maurier's drawings of Peter Ibbetson.. He 
now had that young beard again, and he and it and the han- 
some with the white satin slippers in it had disappeared 
behind a bus opposite Swan and Edgar's. 

I dashed across to the island and dodged in front of the 
nose of a horse ; but I could not see the hansom. There were 
four directions in which it could have gone: up Regent 
Street, Glasshouse Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, or east past 
the Pavilion. Then a taxi slowed down immediately in front 
of me, and I found myself standing on the step of it, holding 
the door open with one hand and with the other pointing 
past the driver's head. 

"That hansom in front follow that hansom " 

We tried Regent Street first, for I remember seeing the 
revolving doors of the Piccadilly ; but no hansom was to be 
seen. I thrust my head out of the window again. 

"Quick turn try Shaftesbury Avenue," I cried. 

He turned, but not quickly. It was a good two minutes 
before we reached the Grill Room entrance of the Monico. 
Then I lost my temper. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 67 

"A hansom, man damn it, a hansom! Can't you follow 
the only hansom left in London? Ask that man on point- 
duty " 

But I got the impression that the police do not look with 
too much favour on roving orders to follow other vehicles 
to unspecified addresses. The constable was curt. 

"There was a hansom a minute ago. If you've got his 
number try Scotland Yard. Come along, you can't stop 
here " 

I sank back cursing. In the very moment when pure 
chance had given him to me I had lost him again. By this 
time he was probably half a mile away. There was nothing 
whatever to be done. 

"Where to now ?" grunted the driver. 

Nothing to be done nothing whatever. 

"Cambridge Circus, 120," I said. 

As well there as anywhere else. He might just possibly 
be on his way there. He still had a key the duplicate of 
which was in my own pocket. 

I descended at Cambridge Circus, let myself in and 
mounted to his rooms. He was not there, for no light 
showed under the door. I switched on, hung up my hat in 
his little recess, and sat down on his sofa. Then, mortified, 
but trying to tell myself that I was not actually any worse 
off, I sought to dissect that momentary impression of him 
that was all that remained to* me. 

A hansom, and his beard again! That antiquated black- 
mutton-chop-shape balanced on two spidery wheels, and that 
fair and tender sprouting ! Both were anachronistic, and yet 
there was a certain suitability about both. Comparatively 
few young Englishmen have beards nowadays, but then com- 
paratively few young Englishmen are in their forties and 
their thirties- at the same time. He had always looked hand- 
some in his beard, rather like something from a Greek or 
Roman gallery come to life again, and so he was right to 
have let it grow. As for the hansom, he might have taken 
it merely because it was the last vehicle left on the rank, 
refused by everybody else, or there might have been a 



68 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

subtler reason for his choice. A browny-gold beard and a 
hansom ! Yes, both were "in the picture." 

But neither beard nor hansom helped me to what I most 
anxiously wanted to know how far back in years he had 
now gone. In the ordinary way a beard may make a young 
man look older; but then Rose was paradoxically younger 
than he was. He might now be twenty-five who looked 
thirty-five because of the beard, or he might be thirty-five 
looking precisely that age. 

I would have given fifty pounds at that moment for one 
long, steady look at him in a good light. 

However, certain things were in their way reassuring. He 
was in London, and apparently he was not avoiding its most 
central places. He had worn a hat of soft grey velours that 
I had not seen before, and a new-looking, well-cut jacket of 
grey cheviot. As he had disappeared in navy-blue, he thus 
had money to spend on clothes. He had further looked in 
magnificent health, and a man who has health, money, youth 
and a pretty satin-slippered foot near his own has a number 
of very good things indeed. I might therefore dismiss the 
workmen's-tram and dock-gates side of the affair. If Der- 
went Rose was not having a good time he ought to have been. 

And yet at the same time I was uneasy. I will not put on 
any airs about the reason for my uneasiness. White satin 
slippers in hansoms had very little to do with it, and tea- 
rooms that had once been something else even less. These 
are ordinary everyday things, and there must be something 
wrong with the eyes of a man who does not see them at 
every turn I had almost added something wrong with the 
mind of a man who magnifies these beyond their proper im- 
portance. But when you propose to find a friend by a 
process of reconstruction of the past phases of his life, you 
must be prepared for a shock or two ; and what I did now 
begin extraordinarily to resent, among these vulgar and 
everyday things, was Rose's not being a vulgar everyday 
man. 

For what had the author of The Hands of Esau and The 
Vicarage of Bray to do with all this ? True, he had been in 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 69 

it, whether of it or not, as we can none of us shake off the 
trammels of the flesh until we do so once for all ; but the only 
Derwent Rose with whom properly I had any concern was 
the man who, into whatever suspect place he had penetrated, 
had kept something fair and secret and unsullied all the time. 

Yet here I was, proposing to look for what was precious 
and enduring in him, yet prepared to set (as it were) my 
trap with the grossest possible bait. I was going to catch 
the best of him by means of the worst, and was deliberately 
and cold-bloodedly laying my plans to that end. 

I flushed at the thought ; and then I found myself growing 
angry with him also. Suddenly I resented the fact that he 
was alive at all. Why, instead of having contracted this 
nightmare of a thing that he had contracted, couldn't he have 
died? Wliy couldn't he have got himself killed in the war? 
We respect the decency of the dead ; why must I violate his, 
who had chosen this extraordinary alternative to death? 
"Was this the way to write a friend's epitaph? Must im- 
mortelles of this common and saddening mortality be laid 
on his unlocated grave ? Why not write him off treat him 
as dead give up a search that honoured neither him nor me 
go back to Julia and tell her that the thing simply couldn't 
be done? 

It seems to me, knitting my brows there that night in his 
room, that I could do nothing better than that. 

But precisely there was the dickens of it. He was not 
dead. How regard a man as dead whom you have seen in 
the flesh not an hour before? Dead? He was alive, well- 
dressed, driving a woman somewhere in a hansom, and 
certainly looking as if he ate four square meals a day and 
enjoyed them. Had he been dead, well and good ; but since 
he was about as alive as a man could be, the tombstone vir- 
tues I was concocting to his memory looked unpleasantly 
like a sentimental shirking of the whole question. They 
reminded me of hypocrite mourning, with a drop of some- 
thing warm with sugar to take the edge off the grief. They 
looked as if I wanted to have him off my mind, to feel 
luxuriously about him, to be able to say to myself, "This 



TO THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

friend of mine was a good and exemplary man" and then 
perhaps at any moment to hear his step behind me, that of a 
man not good or exemplary in this sense at all. I seemed to 
hear him softly laughing at me : "So that's the yarn you're 
going to put about, is it : that I was all barley-sugar and noble 
prose? But let me tell you that Shakespeare and I hit on 
some of our best notions with a mug of beer in our hands ! 
Great stuff, beer ; nearly as good as music. . . . Don't be a 
humbug, George." 

So it looked as if I was for seeking him only in the politer 
places, knowing all the time that I should not find him there ; 
and I reflected a little bitterly that had the boot been on the 
other leg he would have known where to look for me. He 
would have walked straight into the first place where easy- 
going people take the softest way with one another, give 
praise for praise, and by and by get knighthoods for it. He 
would have looked for me there. And he would have had an 
excellent chance of finding me. 

I hope I have not wearied you with these quasi-heroics 
about friendship. They were dispelled quickly enough. 
Suddenly there happened something that arrested the beat- 
ing of my heart. 

I heard the sound of feet on the stairs outside. They were 
accompanied by a woman's soft laugh and a man's deeper 
muttering. 

My skin turned crisp with fright. I am afraid I lost my 
head as completely as ever I lost it in my life. Friendship 
or no friendship, I gave him the benefit of not one single 
doubt. If he was coming in there was one thing to do and 
one only to make a dash and get away out of it. 

Again I heard the laugh. It came from the landing im- 
mediately below. A step or two higher, and 

I sprang to the electric light and switched it off. 

The little curtained hat-and-coat recess stood just within 
the door. I made a tiptoe leap for it. As I did so I remem- 
bered with thankfulness one of the recess's peculiarities. It 
abutted so close up to the door-frame on the side where the 
lock and handle were that Rose had had the switch moved 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 71 

to the other side. The opening door would therefore be 
"between him and the switch. That would be my moment. 
He would see my things scattered about his room the mo- 
ment he turned on the light, but that tould be explained later. 
To get away was the urgent thing. 

Violently agitated, the curtains grasped in my hand, I 
stood prepared to make my spring. The feet had stopped 
outside the door. I heard the striking of a match. I waited 
for the touch of the key on the lock. 

Then, "What, up again ?" I heard the man's voice say. . . . 

The feet passed on to the floor above. I never knew who 
lived there. Rose's bell was the third of four, counting from 
the bottom. 

IV 

I have not told you the foregoing because I am proud of 
it. At the best I had behaved childishly, at the worst but 
we will come to that presently. Had it really been he I 
should probably not have had the remotest chance of ever 
getting past him. He would have vaulted a handrail in the 
dark, taken a flight in two bounds, and would have had his 
hand that hand that tore books in two on my neck. Had 
he recognised me he would have wanted to know what the 
devil I was doing in his rooms. Had he failed to recognise 
me I should as likely as not have gone through the window. 
One takes risks when one intrudes on the loves of the giants. 

At the same time, I will do myself the justice to say that 
physical risks were not my first consideration. Vast as his 
strength was, it was the part of him I leas* feared. What I 
did fear, what I was now beginning to think I had not nearly 
sufficiently allowed for, was the enormous spiritual and 
mental range of the man. 

Up to that moment in his life when he had become so 
mysteriously turned round, this very width and range had 
resulted in a state of balance, as the tightrope-walker is bal- 
anced by the length of his pole. But to consider either of 
his extremes separately was to have a cold shiver. Often I 



72 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

had thought, "I'm thankful I haven't your burden of per- 
sonality to bear, my friend. Much- better to be the millionth 
man and take everything on trust. The way to be happy on 
this earth is to be just a shell of useful and comfortable and 
middling habits. Stick to the second-hand things of life and 
let the new ones alone. Any kind of singularity is a curse, 
and your life is one dreadful yawning question. You've no 
business to have the first dawn in your eyes and the last 
trump in your ears like that. The world has no need of 
that kind of man. What you need is another world some- 
where else." 

And he had marvellously contrived to find this other 
world, and had it all, all to himself. 

And here was I proposing to dig him out of it. 

Can you guess now what it was that I had begun to fear 
more than his physical strength? It was the whole un- 
gauged pressure of his personality. In behaving as. foolishly 
as I had just behaved I had wished to spare both myself and 
him the humiliation of an intrusion on a vulgar amour. 
Now it occurred to be, Why a "vulgar" one at all? Vul- 
garity is for us smaller people, who are vulgar enough to 
think that anything that is created is vulgar. But Derwent 
Rose had so striven that every dawn was the first dawn of 
creation for him. He had no habits, had daily sought to see 
the world as if it had never been seen before. Abysses must 
open for him every time he passed a huddle on a park bench, 
protoplasmic re-beginnings stare out at him from every 
chance glance of a street- walker's eyes. . . . Oh, I am far 
from envying him. I should blench to have a mind like 
that. To no possession that I have do I cling half so dearly 
as I do to my narrowness and to my prejudice. I am the 
millionth man, and I thank God on my knees for it. One 
of the other kind has been my friend. . . . 

Suppose then that one day I should surprise him in some 
act, stupid and meaningless to myself, but as fraught with 
tremendousness for him as was that first command, "Let 
there be Light!" What would happen then? You see what 
I am driving at. Up to now my idea had been, quite simply, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



73 



to find him. I had sought him much as I might have sought 
a truant schoolboy, who would consent to be scolded and 
brought back to ordinary life again. Small practical diffi- 
culties, mostly in connection with his altered appearance, I 
had anticipated, but these I had intended to deal with as they 
arose. In a word, I had assumed his willingness, his also, 
to be the millionth man. 

But how if he should refuse with scorn? What was the 
state of his balance, not in my eyes, but in his ? When I had 
last seen him he had trembled in equilibrium, and to his fluc- 
tuations I had off-handedly applied the terms "worse" and 
"better." But what were such terms to him ? . . . I will do 
as I did before try to set it out in parallel columns. Here 
was a missing man, a man of unusual range and powers, to 
whose state of poise something had happened. It was this 
man's daily endeavour to accept nothing at second-hand, 
to disregard all names, labels, customs, tags, appearances, 
verdicts, records, precedents. His life was one long probing 
into the essential nature of things. I might, therefore, ex- 
pect to find : 

The Derwent Rose who had or The Derwent Rose who might 



said, when I had offered 
him the whisky, "No, no 
blast it, no water!" 



The Derwent Rose who had 
torn off his collar, but who 
had also cried, "Good God, 
man, I'm not bragging of 
my conquests don't think 
I'm not ashamed !" 



have replied, "Whisky? 
Well, it has interesting ef- 
fects sometimes. Somebody 
once called it a short cut to 
a psychic experience. If a 
psychic experience is what 
you are after, why take the 
roundabout way? Let's try 
it." 

or The Derwent Rose who might 
have growled, "Well, what 
is there extraordinary about 
that? Perhaps it isn't any- 
thing to make a song about, 
but don't pretend you've 
never heard of such a thing 
before. It happens every 
night, you know." 



74 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



The Derwent Rose who had 
sat in a hansom with a 
white satin slipper as open- 
ly and innocently as I 
might have sat to Julia Oli- 
phant for my portrait. 



The Derwent Rose who loved 
beauty and hated ugliness. 



or The Derwent Rose who might 
have said, "Men are men 
and women are women. 
This is also Piccadilly Cir- 
cus. Look round. Can't 
you find anything better to" 
do than to hunt for a man 
who is not at home to 
anybody this evening?" 

or The Derwent Rose who cared 
nothing for the name of 
anything, destroyed stale 
and outworn canons of 
beauty with a laugh, and 
sought a fresher loveliness 
in a world where nothing 
is common or unclean. 



But once more I had to give it up. That baffling down of 
golden beard had obliterated every physical indication. He 
might be in a church for an assignation. He might be in a 
drinking-hell lost in images of beauty and sweetness and 
power. 

And what kind of a Salle des Pas Perdus is London in 
which to look for a man like that ? The whole thing became 
an illimitable phantasmagoria of virtue and vice, nobility and 
degradation, expressed in terms of bricks and stones and 
buildings and streets. Sitting brooding among his black oak 
furniture, I tried to envisage even that merest fragment of 
it all that was being enacted within a quarter of a mile at 
that moment. WhitfiekTs Tabernacle and for all I knew 
an opium den within a biscuit's toss of it ; the Synagogue 
and the lady upstairs. I pictured the tenements behind the 
Shaftesbury with their iron balconies and emergency-lad- 
ders ; and I saw young lovers in their stalls at the Palace. I 
saw the bright Hampstead buses, and the masked covertness 
of the flitting taxis. I heard the slap and thump of beer- 
pumps, children's simple prayers. Images floated before me 
of the gloom of cinema-interiors, the green-shaded glow- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 75 

lamps of orchestras, the rippling of incandescent advertise- 
ments, the blackness of the jam factory yard. There were 
pockets with money in them, money to buy all the world 
has to sell ; and there were pockets empty of the price of a 
cup of coffee at the back-street barrows. There were hearts 
with love in them, love as boundless as heaven's blue, and 
there were hearts from which love had passed, hearts as 
musty as the graves that waited for them. All but Infinity 
itself was to be found within a few hundred yards of where 

sat. 

And flitting uniquely through it all was this man whose 
privacy was so public, whose publicness was so unutterably 
private. He might be met at any step, and yet, of all the 
millions living, there was not one he could call contemporary. 
For he was the only man in the world who was growing 
younger instead of older. He of all men alone was passing 
from experience to innocence, through the murk of his 
former sins to the perfection of his own maximum and the 
unimpaired godhead of his prime. 

"But you mightn't see him again for another twenty 
years !" Julia protested, shaking out her napkin and laughing 
for the sheer bewilderment of it. 

I had chosen the small restaurant in Jermyn Street because 
it had no band to distract us. 

"I know all that," I retorted. "But if you think that just 
sitting there loving him is going to produce him, your way 
may take even longer than mine." 

"Pooh!" she said, breaking her roll. "You're wasting 
your time." 

"Don't be irritating, Julia." It irritated me because it was 
so true. "It's my time anyway." 

"No it isn't, not all of it. What about my sittings?" 
(There had not yet been any, by the way.) "The canvas is 
ready as soon as you are." 

"I'll grow a beard, and then you won't want to paint me," 
I replied. 

Her eyes had sparkled when I nad told her about Berry's 



7 6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

beard ; I had thought she was going to clap her hands. Ex- 
cept for Berry's golden one (she had said) she had never 
seen a beard that wasn't nasty. I myself (she had informed 
me) should look a perfect horror in one, and unless I re- 
mained clean-shaven she refused to be seen about with me. 
... So our customary quarrel blew up. We wrangled 
about one trifle and another half-way through dinner. It 
probably did us good, for underneath we were both badly on 
edge. Then along the edge of the table she slid a bent little 
ringer. It was her way of making up. The finger rested in 
mine for a moment. 

"Well," I sighed, "I told you all I saw. I'm afraid that 
beard threw me quite out of my reckoning." 

She mused. "I once drew him with his beard, from 
memory. In armour. He looked just like King Arthur 
come to life again. I've got it yet. . . . But let's look at 
the thing reasonably, George. I admit there's something 
to be said for having a pied-a-terre in his rooms. He might 
just possibly turn up there. It might also be hm ! awk- 
ward if he did. . . . But the rest, all this hunting for him, 
that's a wash-out. You know it is." 

I was (Silent Then again I saw in her eyes what I had 
seen before the beginning of a soft deep shining, as if some 
diver's lamp moved beneath the waters at night. 

"No, I prefer my way," she said, suddenly sitting straight 
up. 

"Doing nothing at all?" 

"Fiddlesticks ! I'm supposed to sit and listen respectfully 
when you talk, but you never listen to what I've got to say. 
I told you what my way was. I'll tell you again. I had tea 
at Daphne Bassett's flat this afternoon." 

"I hope you found Puppetty well," I remarked. 

The kindling eyes were steadily on mine. 

"Puppetty," she said slowly, "is in the greatest favour. 
Puppetty has wing-portions for dinner and bovril to go to 
bed with. Puppetty's to have a new quilt for being a good 
little doggies and protecting his mummie " 

"What on earth " I began. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 77 

Then I sat up as suddenly as if I had been galvanised. 

"Julia! You don't mean ?" 

She nodded, darkling devils of mischief under that cool 
smooth brow. 

"What, that he's still looking for her?" 

"He's found her. He spoke to her a couple of days ago." 

"And she recognised him ?" 

"I didn't say that." 

"Didn't she recognise him?" 

"Didn't know him from Adam." 

"Then how do you know it was he ?" 

I cannot convey the lightness of her disdain. "How do 
I know! " 

I leaned back in my chair. To think that I had not thought 
of this, the oldest of all stratagems! Guettez la femme! 
Runaways are caught by it every day, and always will be. 
They are released from custody and placed under observa- 
tion so that they may walk straight into the trap. That is 
why the trick is old it never fails. And I had not thought 
of it! 

She wore her triumph with such present moderation that 
I knew I had not heard the last of it. 

"Yes," she continued, "she told me all about it. It was 
on Monday evening, about seven o'clock, and she was coming 
up the little street by St. James's Church, where the Post 
Office is. She fancied she'd noticed a man following her, 
a very big handsome man with a golden beard." 

"Is that her description of him ?" I interrupted. 

"Yes. That's why I wasn't much surprised when you 
told me about his beard. Then outside the Post Office the 
outrage happened. He spoke to her. Spoke to her, George. 
Try to realise it." 

"Well, if she'd no idea who he was it wasn't a pleasant 
thing to have happen." 

She gave a soft laugh. "He's very good-looking," she 

lid brazenly. 

"Julia, if you were naturally a catty sort of woman " 

"Don't interrupt, George. I am artificially then. If you 



78 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

don't want to hear go out and look for hansoms. And what- 
ever else you're sententious about don't be sententious about 
women. Now I've forgotten what I was going to say." 

"You said he spoke to her outside the Post Office." 

"Behave yourself then. He did speak to her, and she set 
Puppetty at him." 

"What?' I cried. 

"Quite so, dear George. As you say. Fearfully pleased 
and excited really. Quite a romance. And of course she'd 
have given anything not to set Puppetty at him." 

"Then why in the name of goodness did she?" 

Julia gave an exhausted sigh. "If ever you marry, George, 
heaven help Lady Coverham ! . . . Why did she ? Because 
she had to. She's that sort. They've got to do certain 
things because that sort does, but they do so wish they 
needn't! Virtue's a funny thing. If you don't want that 
ice may I have it ?" 

"But look here," I said presently. "If he'd said straight 
out, as any man in his position would have done, 'I say, I 
know this is a bit unusual, but my name's Derwent Rose, and 
there's something I want to explain' and so on you see 
what I mean. Then she'd have known who he was." 

"Well, I'm afraid I'm not responsible for what he didn't 
say." 

"What exactly did he say?" 

She gave a shrug. "What do men say? They don't stop 
me outside post offices. You never did; if all this hadn't 
happened I don't suppose I should ever have known you 
one scrap better. I dare say he was a bit rattled too. Any- 
way she didn't stop to think. She just set the dog at him, 
legged it, and she's as pleased as Punch still." 

"You're quite sure she didn't recognise him ?" 

"Oh, quite. She'd tell me in a minute. She'd love to be 
able to say she'd had Derwent Rose at her feet." 

"I suppose so," I sighed. "Did you ask her what aged man 
this marauder looked ?" 

"What do you think? Of course I did. Doesn't every- 
thing turn on that? But she could only tell me, 'Oh, about 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 79 

thirty-three or four thirty-five perhaps/ The very thing 
we want to know . . . but she was in such a hurry to be 
virtuous. . . ." 

Her brow was no longer smooth. Her voice rose a little 
and then dropped again. 

"You see how much turns on which it is thirty-five or 
thirty-three. You say he was struggling with himself that 
night, sweating with funk, wanting to hang on. And yet 
the moment you turned your back he bolted, and he's riding 
about with ladies in hansoms/' 

"Come, my dear!" I protested. "There's nothing in that! 
All men drive about with women. For that matter I drove 
you part of the way here." 

But she cut me impatiently short. 

"Oh, I don't mean that at all! That's nothing to me! 
I don't care who he takes in hansoms ; I've nothing to gain 
and nothing to lose. I want him to have just whatever he 
wants. But I told you he knew nothing about women. 
He's never been in love in his life. Oh, I'm explaining badly, 
but what I mean is that if you're going to find him by 
going through London with a dustman's besom and scraper, 
that's as much as to say that he isn't happy. That's what 
hurts me. He was miserable at thirty-five before miserable 
and ashamed. But the moment he's thirty-three again " 

I watched the long white fingers that tapped softly for a 
minute on the table before she resumed. 

"Then he's all right," she said in a low and moved voice. 
"He was writing the Vicarage then. I saw oh, quite lots of 
him. He used to 'blow in,' as he called it, with a 'Hallo, 
Julia ! I'm having rather a devil of a good time these days ; 
writing a book that will make some of 'em sit up and take 
notice ; I've done a quarter of it in three weeks ; how's that 
for a little gentle occupation ?' Yes, I saw quite a lot of him 
at thirty-three. I had a studio near Cremorne Road. It 
wasn't really a studio, but a sort of gutted top floor, big 
enough to have given a dance in, and my bed was behind a 
curtain that was drawn right across one end. I used to give 
him tea there Patum Paperium sandwiches he liked and 



8o THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

he was sweet. Once I'd an illustration to do for some stupid 
story or other, about a sort of Sandow-and-Hackenschmidt 
all rolled into one, and do you know what he did? He 
looked at my drawing, took it to the window, and then 
laughed. 'I say, Julia, this will never do !' he said. 'When a 
man lifts a heavy thing like that he does it from the earth, 
you understand you do everything that's worth doing from 
the earth. So you've got to see his feet are right. Anybody 
likely to come in here? No? Right; I don't mind you. Got 
anything heavy here ? You get your paper and pencil.' And 
he stripped to the belt and picked up my sewing-machine 
and posed for me. He did. , . ," 



I seemed to see the scene in bright illumination, him in that 
upper room with the curtains drawn across one end, his 
jacket and shirt tossed on to a chair, his great torso stripped 
to the buff, the sewing-machine held aloft. She would be 
at her board or easel, sketching pretending to sketch I 
don't know what. He had merely said, "Anybody likely to 
come in? No? Right! I don't mind you!" 

It was true. He hadn't minded her. Otherwise he would 
never have displayed himself so gloriously before her eyes. 

"Did that illustration ever appear?" I asked without 
looking at her. 

I knew without looking that she smiled as she shook her 
head. 

"Not that one. You know it didn't. The first one was 
good enough for them." 

And she still had the King Arthur sketch too. 

"And that was when he was thirty-three?" 

Now that she was off there was no stopping her, even had 
I wished it. 

"Yes. Did you know will you believe that he wrote 
his Vicarage in just over three months?*' 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 81 

"He was a furious worker." 

"That's just where you're wrong, George," she said 
eagerly. "At that time at any rate. He was as cool as this 
ice. He just digested those gigantic masses of information, 
and then, except for the trouble of writing it down, he never 
turned a hair. I'll tell you the things that did make him 
furious; those were his rottenest short stories, the things 
he used to have to do to pay his rent. He always knew they 
were the wrong sort of rottenness. Any kind of rottenness 
won't do for the public. You've got to be rotten in quite a 
specialised way." 

"Thank you." 

"But the bigger a thing was the easier he always found it. 
He used to say that if a thing was hard work there was 
something wrong somewhere. Why, he'd take whole days 
off when he was at his very busiest. He came into my place 
one morning the same place, Cremorne Road before 
half-past eight. I was just finishing breakfast; I hadn't 
done my hair; if you must know, I was rather a sloven at 
that time. He was in his breeches and cap and a soft collar. 
'Down tools, Julia,' he said ; 'we're off into the country for 
the day.' 'But, Derry, your book!' I said, rather aghast 
(he'd told me a day or two before that the Vicarage was a 
race against time or else bankruptcy for him in the autumn) . 
'Oh, that's all right; it's finished as far as I'm concerned; 
the pen '11 do the rest; come along just as you are/ So I 
put my hair up, and we went to Chalfont, and got horribly 
midge-bitten, and there was an old man playing the harp 
outside a little public-house where we had tea, and I remem- 
ber Derry jumped over a five-barred gate with his stick in his 
hand and his pipe in his mouth. . . ." 

She remembered every detail. I don't think she had ever 
once seen him but she remembered what he had on, how he 
had looked, what he had talked about. These were the still 
depths I spoke of, of which the rest was no more than the 
salt spray surface. I might be hanging about Cambridge 
Circus on the off-chance of his coming for a paper or a book 



82 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

or something ; but I believe that in her heart something was 
already rekindling, and that she was even then waiting to re- 
ceive him again in that upper room off Cremorne Road. 

"Well," she said at last, "this is all very well, but it isn't 
getting us much forrarder. Of course he may be thirty-five 
still. In that case I suppose you'll carry on as you are 
doing. But let's suppose for a moment he's back at thirty- 
three. I'm afraid that'll mean a good deal of work for you, 
George. You've got to start on an entirely new set of 
places. Let me see, what year would that be? Yes, 1908. 
Where was he mostly in 1908?" 

"In your studio apparently." 

"Oh, he was never there very much really. I dare say he 
only came at all because it was near and he'd drawn a blank 
somewhere else; he lived in Paulton's Square, you know. 
No, you'd have to look for him in the British Museum Read- 
ing Room, or the lobby of the House of Commons, or wher- 
ever the Blue Books are kept, or some other place where 
he'd be digging out all that terrible Vicarage stuff. Or if it 
happened to be a Thursday night you might try the Eyre 
Arms ; he used to go up there to the Belsize Boxing Club. 
Cheer up, George. I'm only showing you what you've let 
yourself in for." 

"Well, it's no good looking for him in the fourth dimen- 
sion. He's got to be in some sort of a place. And I admit 
that I was a fool, and that you found him simply by sitting 
in Mrs Bassett's pocket." 

"I didn't do that at all," she remarked composedly. 

"Then I'm afraid I haven't understood you." 

"Then let me tell you. I didn't sit in Daphne Bassett's 
pocket. I sat in Daphne Wade's." 

I stared at her. Was she suggesting that while she her- 
self had loved him since childhood, he for his part had loved 
Daphne Wade? 

"Surely you're wrong there. If there was ever anything 
between her and him I'm no judge of men." 

"There may not have 'been anything/ But there was 
everything for all that," she replied. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 83 

"That's merely enigmatic. Never mind 'everything.' 
Tell me what thing." 

"All his dreams and ideals when he was a boy," she 
answered promptly. "Isn't that everything in a man like 
him the everything he's on his way back to ?" 

"But he never loved her in the least, nor she him, as far 
as I'm aware." 

"That I shall never forgive her. . . . Don't you know yet 
why he never knew anything about real women? It was 
simply because he was too wrapped up in his dreams. He 
was so full of them that he couldn't see anything truly for 
them. And now I'm afraid I'm going to dispel one of your 
most cherished illusions, George. Do you know why his 
dreams all settled on Daphne Wade? Oh, it had nothing 
to do with loving her! ... It was simply because she had 
that coloured hair. It was rather like an aureole when she 
was a child. And her eyes were blue. In fact she'd all the 
conventional angelic appliances except the wings, and he 
supplied those. She'd nothing whatever else little fool." 

I frowned. Certainly she was entitled to speak of those 
early days towards which his face was once more set, since 
she had known him then, and I had not. 

"Have some more coffee," I said. "I want to think this 
over." 

But she only laughed softly. 

"Oh, you needn't. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble 
by simply taking my word for it. In any case it's getting 
on for thirty years ago. Oh, don't I just remember! . . . 
I was nine and he was fourteen; I was ten and he was 
fifteen ; I was eleven and he was sixteen. She's just a year 
older than I am. Our pew was half-way down the church, 
but she sat up one of the aisles, right under a stained-glass 
window there was. It used to make that light on her hair. 
My hair was the wrong colour I knew it then just a dark 
mop but anyway it was full of life. It would still have 
been dark, of course, even if I'd sat under the window in- 
stead of her, but I've sometimes thought it might have made 
a difference. Then there was all the rest; Dicksee's 'Har- 



84 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

mony' sort of effect ; all so cool and dim and saintly ; and the 
organ and the Psalms. That's what filled his head, and I 
honestly believe that unless women are just animals to him 
he sees them like that still just about as much flesh and 
blood as that window was. All she had to do was to have 
that hair and those eyes and to sit in the vicarage pew. 
Things are made very simple for some women." 

A long silence fell between us. Evidently she was back 
in that church, an adoring wrong-coloured-haired girl of 
eleven, shifting in her seat to see, past intervening bonnets 
and bald heads, Berry's browny-gold crown, while he 
watched Daffy Wade and the window. 

"But," I said at last, "aren't you rather anticipating? I 
thought we'd settled he was thirty-five or thirty-three. 
That's making him sixteen already." 

She rose abruptly. 

"George, do you realise that we're the last people here and 
that they've turned half the lights out?" Then, drawing 
forward her furs from the back of her chair, "It isn't making 
him anything of the sort. You're more than thirty-five ; but 
you sometimes remember what you were at sixteen, don't 
you ? . . . Come and put me into my Tube and off you go to 
bed. Who knows? he might 'blow in* to Cambridge 
Circus " 

"You sometimes remember what you were at sixteen!" 
I wondered, as I walked slowly up Shaftesbury Avenue 
that night, whether she realised what she had said. I hoped 
not. I prayed not ; because her words seemed to me to mur- 
der her own cherished hope that he was safely past that 
turbulent phase and back at thirty-three again. 

For that poignancy of remembrance, I am glad to think, is 
more frequently a man's than a woman's. It is the man 
who, slipping away, away from his youth and innocence, 
down, down, slip after slip into the mire of life, lifts his red 
and weeping eyes to what he used to be. And when does 
that vision shine most agonisingly fair? Not in the hours 
of his philosophy, when nothing unduly elates him and 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 85 

nothing too much casts him down, but when he is in the 
slough as deep as he can get. Oh, I know it, for I have 
sinned myself, have myself wept, for that impossible heart- 
break to be as I once was. And if Julia was right, and he 
was not seeking Mrs Bassett at all, nor even Daphne Wade, 
but merely his remembered self at sixteen, then he was not 
thirty-three at all. He had not yet passed beyond that 
phase he had dreaded to re-live. He was still in the mud, 
to have had that tear-blurred vision; still a sinful man of 
thirty-five who remembered the morning star. 

Well, Julia must not know that. This dark corollary was 
for my shouldering, not hers. And as I resolved to keep it 
from her I wondered at the marvel her own inner life had 
been. 

For nearly thirty years it had consisted of Derwent Rose 
and of nothing whatever else ! None would have guessed 
it, none but I knew it, nothing but Derry's unprecedented 
adventure would have dragged it from her. She was a busy 
painter, of but moderate talent, and with her living to earn. 
She could purr when she was pleased, but had claws ready 
to scratch with as well. And, deep and unguessed behind it 
all, lay the story of those Sussex fields and lanes, of that 
dreaming and ecstatic and unheeding boy, of that same boy, 
grown-up and still unheeding, who had stalked in and out 
of her studio, borne her off to Chalfont, held aloft her sew- 
ing-machine. It seemed to me that her case was little less 
extraordinary than his. I saw her as a woman who had 
never grown. She was as she had always been, her life 
stultified with beauty, a poised and arrested development of 
love. 

And, unless I was mistaken, she had hardly sought to 
conceal her joy that, as it had been, so it was to be again. 

For he was journeying back to a place that in this sense 
she had never left ; and so he was journeying back to her. 
What though he had never loved her ? At any rate she was 
now rid of her last living rival. That had been put to the 
test when Daphne Bassett had failed to recognise the man 
who had spoken to her outside the Post Office in St. James's. 



86 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

She would recognise him less and less as time went on. As 
for him, he would merely go deeper and deeper into the 
heart of his inconceivable solitude, and there, in the last and 
the centre of it, he would find Julia Oliphant waiting for 
him waiting for her always loved and lordly boy of sixteen. 

But how much must happen before then ! For the first 
time I envisaged it in its heartbreaking beauty. Lovely, ap- 
parently inevitable the close . . . but the way there ? What, 
steeling her heart, must she see before that meeting? 

She must see a man whose last kiss was his first one, who 
unlived a thousand adventures to become virgin in the end. 
She must see a man living so unutterably long that he lived 
to write his first poem again. She would see a man who 
had fought through a war of flame and poison puckering his 
smooth brows over his first percussion-cap pistol. She 
would see the dust of his athletic laurels stir, reassemble, 
bloom anew. She would see the miracle of youth synthe- 
sised, the grail of his purity mystically reappear. Not even 
Joshua saw what those liquid and already tired brown eyes 
of hers must see the sun of a man's life pause at noon, 
swing contrary to its orbit, and move back to set where it 
rose. 

And all at once there came over me a whelming of passion- 
ate emotion for this woman so singled out. It was the emo- 
tion one feels over an infant whose eyes open for the first 
time on the world compassion and ache and hapless tender- 
ness and hope for the best. Would she be able to bear her 
destiny? Would she, had such a thing been possible, have 
elected never to have been born rather than bear it ? Could 
I help her? If things should unfold as they were well in 
motion to unfold, could any power on earth help her ? 

I began to suspect that, unless she renounced him once 
for all, and that quickly, no power on earth would be able to 
help her. 

I don't know why I did not pack up my things and go back 
to Haslemere. I no longer pretended to be looking for 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 87 

Derwent Rose in London, and I had not given one single 
sitting for my portrait. Yet, though I could not help Julia, 
I felt myself unable to leave her. If I did not see her for 
an evening I was disturbed, lost what to do with myself. 
Several of these evenings came, and still I lingered on. 

Then, I think on the fourth evening after I had given Julia 
dinner in Jermyn Street, the history of Derwent Rose moved 
forward or backward once more. 

I had thought of looking up Madge Aird that evening, 
but at the last moment had changed my mind. I did not 
feel up to Madge's liveliness. So I hung round that now 
so-drearily-familiar neighbourhood instead the neighbour- 
hood between Leicester Square Tube Station and Tottenham 
Court Road. I walked till I was tired, and then, more for 
the sake of sitting down than for any other reason, I entered 
a picture-house on the west side of Shaftesbury Avenue. I 
did not choose that one in particular. It was just like any 
other picture-house except that it had a small organ built 
into the wall high up in one corner. This organ was ceasing 
to play as I entered. The principal drama of the programme 
was just over. 

As it chanced, I had arrived just in time for one of those 
rather curious effects that are obtained when the film is put 
through the machine extremely slowly. You know the kind 
I mean. A racehorse in full career picks up and puts down 
his legs as if they were fronds of seaweed moving lazily in 
water ; a golf-ball trickles uncannily across the green, rising 
and falling idly over each minute obstacle, and then floats 
gently down into the hole. In spite of my languor I found 
myself interested in these analyses of motion. It is curious 
to see instantaneousness taking its time over a thing like 
that. 

Then that series also finished, and I felt in my pocket for 
my cigarette case. As I drew out a cigarette and struck a 
match somebody behind me leaned forward and touched me 
lightly on the shoulder. 

"I say, isn't your name Coverham?" a man's voice said. 



88 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

The match was still in my fingers. I looked over my 
shoulder in the light of it. Then I dropped the match. 

I had not found him. He had found me. It was Der- 
went Rose, 



PART III 
THE STRAPHANGER 



He was not far from the end of the row, and in reaching 
him I had not to disturb more than three or four people. 
Though it is inadequate, I have decided that the single word 
that best expresses the way in which he spoke is the word 
"careful." He spoke slowly, and, it seemed to me, with 
extreme care. 

"Interesting idea that last, isn't it? Restful. Things go 
at such a deuce of a rate nowadays that it's a comfort to see 
anything slow. Well, how are you, George? I haven't 
seen you for some little time." 

It was precisely three weeks since he had last seen me, and 
I noted that slight, that very slight hesitation before his last 
words. 

"Do you often come here? I I rather keep away from 
these places myself ; they put everything through much too 
quickly; but I rather like this one because of the organ. 
Of course they only play 'effects' 'Ora Pro Nobis' and the 
'Wedding March' but there's something about an organ. 
... I say, George," he said a little uncomfortably, "I've a 
sort of feeling I owe you an apology." 

"Well, this is hardly the place for it. We can't talk here. 
If you've seen all you want suppose we go outside?" 

The thing I wanted first of all was to have a good look at 
him. Already I could see that he no longer had a beard. 
But my surreptitious glance at him as we passed out into 
the lighted vestibule and past the box-office told me little. 
On the pavement of Shaftesbury Avenue he slipped his arm 
into mine. 

"Yes, I fancy I talked an awful lot of rubbish that night 
bit of an ass of myself you remember " 

I did not reply. The important thing was, not whether I 

91 



92 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

remembered, but whether his memory was all that it should 
have been, for he was forgetting something even as he spoke. 
He remembered that other night, he had remembered my 
name ; but if he remembered that he had rooms and belong- 
ings in Cambridge Circus he was very deliberately turning 
down Shaftesbury Avenue instead of up it. But I went 
where he led me. I was resolved, however, that the moment 
his arm left mine, mine should go into his. I was not going 
to let him disappear again. 

The typical Soho mixture thronged the pavements : He- 
brew physiognomies, Italian, Greek; dark chins, bold eyes, 
bold noses; rings and scarfpins, fancy socks, the double- 
heeled silk stockings of women. As I could not very well 
scrutinise his face at that short range I did the next best 
thing; I watched the faces that advanced towards us. As 
if he had been a pretty woman, so heads turned as he passed. 
They turned as they turn for Billy Wells. It was not so 
much his size and proportions as his whole personal aura. 
He stood out among all that flashy cosmopolitanism as if a 
special and inherent light attended him. 

"Which way are we going? Where do you live?" I sud- 
denly asked him. It was not the question I was burning to 
ask him. That question was, "When do you live?" I felt 
the slight movement of the muscles under his sleeve, but he 
answered steadily enough carefully enough. 

"Oh, I've been rather lucky about that," he said. "I hap- 
pened to be in the wine-bar of an hotel in Gloucester Road 
one night, and I got talking to a fellow. I fancied I'd come 
across him somewhere in France as a matter of fact I had, 
though he didn't remember me. Anyway, we'd started talk- 
ing, and we went on. Rather an amusing crowd there, 
George. If I were asked to put in one word the basic do- 
mestic factor of their lives, do you know what it would be? 
A pint of methylated spirits. They don't pay half a crown 
for it at the chemist's; they pay one-and-twopence at the 
oilshop. To boil their kettles, of course. They all fought, 
they're all gentlemen, and they're all doing damn-all to make 
a living. So they take garrets and rooms over garages, and 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 93 

cook their breakfasts with methylated spirits. This fellow 
was called Trenchard. Got all messed up at the Brick 
Stacks, La Bassee way. He had to go out of town for a 
month, and said I could have his place for the bare rent, 
twenty-five bob a week, and the use of his furniture for 
nothing. So that's where I am. This way " 

We turned into Leicester Square Tube Station. 

In the train I sat opposite to him ; and, now that he had 
taken his beard off, I couldn't see that he had changed very 
remarkably in outward appearance after all. Nevertheless 
I distrusted my own impression. I knew that I was full 
of pre-conceptions about him, knew too much of his aston- 
ishing case to observe impartially and reliably. There are 
some things some scents for example that you have to 
make up your mind immediately about or else to remain in 
indecision. The longer you delay the less sure you become. 
So I found it with his face in the electric-lighted Tube. 
It was, of course, astoundingly young for a man in the 
middle forties; but call him thirty-five and much of the 
wonder disappeared. The most that a casual acquaintance 
would have been likely to remark was, "How the deuce does 
Rose manage to keep so extraordinarily young-looking?" 
True, his friend Trenchard had failed to recognise the man 
with whom he had fought at La Bassee, but that meant little. 
There were millions of men in France, each the spit of the 
rest for mud and momentariness of acquaintance. To-day, 
by mere association of times and places and battles, these 
men are in fact resuming acquaintances they have no recol- 
lection of ever having begun. "Oh, I've a rotten memory 
for faces seen So-and-so lately? And I say, do you know 
anybody who wants to take a quiet place for a month ?" 
That, no doubt, had been the substance of that conversation 
in the Gloucester Road wine-bar. . . . And there was an- 
other thing of which I shall have more to say by and by. I 
began to suspect that whatever strange element in Derwent 
Rose had brought him to this pass, that element reacted on 
those of us who knew his secret. He probably became less 
extraordinary in our eyes as contemplation of him made us 



94 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

not quite ordinary ourselves. Julia Oliphant (it seemed 
to me) he had already influenced, constrained, isolated. We 
were getting used to him. But I shall return to this. 

In the meantime I was considerably cheered. He remem- 
bered that other night ; he wanted to apologise for the lunacy 
of it; he had given a perfectly coherent account of his 
present whereabouts and how he came to be there, and his 
summing-up of the fellows whose basic domestic factor was 
a pint of methylated spirits had given me a clear and 
straightforward picture. As for the rest why he had left 
Cambridge Circus, what it was that he found restful in those 
slowed-down films, and especially the measured carefulness 
of his speech for the present these things could wait. 

We left Gloucester Road Station, turned up towards 
Princes Gate, and then crossed the road and entered a dark 
gardened Square. Three minutes further walking brought 
us to a high stone archway with a heavily carved and 
moulded entablature, beneath which a cobbled way sloped 
slightly down into a mews. To right and left were garage- 
doors, some closed, others open and flinging shafts of orange 
light across the way. Somewhere an engine was being al- 
lowed to "race"; somewhere else a hose was being turned 
on to the body of a car. High over the roofs of the mews, 
as if suspended at random in the sky, the oblongs of light 
of the South Kensington backs showed. One unshaded 
incandescent burned on a top landing like a star. 

"Let me go first ; I've got a torch," said Derry, stopping 
at a narrow side-door next to where the car was being 
washed. "You'll find the rope on the right." 

The moon of his electric torch shone on the broad treads 
of a steep-pitched ladder that rose to a loft above. Up 
one side of it ran a hand- rope. He preceded me, and on the 
upper landing lighted a wire-caged gas-jet. Then I fol- 
lowed him into Trenchard's abode. 

He had described the place admirably well when he had 
spoken of the methylated spirits, adding that Trenchard 
was a gentleman. A few pieces of furniture notably a tall 
walnut hanging-cupboard and a handsome lacquered cabi- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 95 

net were evidently family possessions; the rest his cre- 
tonne curtains, floor-mats, the blue-and-white check table- 
cloth on the thick-legged Victorian table and the glimpse 
into his kitchen probably represented the greater part of 
his gratuity-money. Every ledge and angle and cheap 
bracket was crowded with photographs, and there were trees 
in his long row of boots. His central incandescent mantle 
was unshaded. Two deep basket chairs stood one on either 
side of where the hearth should have been. The portable 
oil-burning stove was tucked away in a corner. 

"You soon get used to the noises," said Rose with a down- 
ward nod of his head. "I scarcely hear 'em now. Lemon- 
ade? It's bottled, but not bad; tastes of lemons anyway. 
There's a siphon behind you there." 

He put me into one of the basket chairs and himself took 
the other. Then, without the least warning, but still with 
that marked effort at steadiness and care, he said : 

"Well, what price the world-political state, George? Not 
home-politics, but the whole thing democracy civilisation 
if you like " 

If he had asked me what I thought of the theory of rela- 
tivity I should have been readier with an answer. As it was 
I looked askance at him and asked him what made him so 
suddenly ask me that. 

"Oh, same old reason," he replied. "I expect it's a subject 
I shall have to tackle. In a book. I wonder if it's too big ! 
It pulls me enormously. I don't know whether we're in 
for a general smash-up or not. Sometimes I've the feeling 
we are." 

Something within me, I don't know what, warned me that 
here it might be well to be as careful as he. The safest 
thing to do appeared to be to let him run on, and I did so. 

"Yes," he continued, his fine smooth brow gathered in 
thought, "I know it's enormous ; perhaps too staggering alto- 
gether for one man. But do you know," he laughed a little 
as if at himself, "I wonder whether it is so enormous after 
all! There might be quite a simple idea underlying it, I 
mean. What's more enormous than human nature? Yet 



96 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

every wretched little novelist tackles that every time he 
writes a book. It all depends on how much you see in a 
thing. I'm not so sure that I wouldn't as soon tackle one 
day of the whole world's life as one single hour of a human 
being's heart." 

I spoke warily. "You haven't tackled it yet ?" 

He hesitated. "N o," he said slowly. Then, quicken- 
ing a little, "The fact is, George, a job like that would have 
to be rather specially approached. I mean unless you were 
at the very top of your form you'd be bound to come a 
cropper. No good starting a thing till you know your tools 
are sharp in this case your faculties. I'm I'm sharpening 
myself now, if you know what I mean." 

At this point I became incautious. I ceased to listen to 
the voice that warned me too to be careful. 

"Well, that's what I want to ask you," I said. "I want to 
know what you're doing here and why you left Cambridge 
Circus like that." 

I was instantly sorry I had said it. Just as wrestlers on a 
mat lie locked, with little apparent movement, yet in the 
fiercest intensity of prolonged strain, so I felt that something 
struggled in him. I heard it in his voice, I saw it in the 
boyish grey-blue eyes that sought mine. 

"Don't, please, old fellow," he pleaded anxiously. "If you 
mean the rot I talked that other night, I apologise now once 
for all. I've been hoping for months and mon for a long 
time, I mean, that I might run across you. You're so mag- 
nificently steady. That other place stopped being steady. 
. . . This is the place to write that book. I want to write it. 
I've never wanted anything so much. It would be on Vicar- 
age lines, I suppose, but oh immensely bigger ! Freedom, 
scope ! The Vicarage was well enough in its way, but fussy 
and niggly and scratchy. I can do this largely, grandly 
I know so much more, you see and as long as I don't take 
any risks " 

Then, in spite of his own last words, he swung suddenly 
round, and the youthful grey-blue eyes were all a-sparkle. 
They sparkled with daring, as if, though a risk was a risk, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 97 

there was sometimes prudence in taking it. The wicker of 
his chair began to creak under the working of his hand. 

"One little talk can't make much difference," he muttered. 

"Do me good probably magnificently steady : " Then 

he flashed brightly round on me an artist at the height of 
his power confronting a stupendous and magnificent task. 

"You see, don't you, George? You see how I'm placed, 
don't you?" he demanded. 

"Not very clearly." 

"Then I'll tell you. I want to write this book. I want to 
write it as Cheops made his Pyramid, as Moses made his 
Decalogue to last for ever. If I can't write it no living 
man can. Why ? Because no living man combines in him- 
self what I combine the ripest and fullest store of knowl- 
edge and experience and all the irresistible recklessness and 
belief of youth at the same time. Here I stand, between 
the two, and if I can only stay so I shall write I shall 
write oh, such a book as never was dreamed of ! So I've 
got to stand still just where I am now. I haven't got to 
budge from thirty-three that, as nearly as I can tell from 
myself, is the age I am now. You see " 

Uneasily I began to wish myself elsewhere. I knew that I 
began to be afraid in his presence; it is an eerie thing to hear 
a man deliberately proposing to manipulate his age. The 
man down below continued to wash the car; I heard the 
clank of his bucket, the rushing of his hose. 

"Thirty-three," he continued, his eyes still glittering with 
the excitement of it. "If I can only stay so for six months 
nothing matters after that! God, just for six months! . . . 
But it's not so easy as it sounds, George. You've got to be 
on the watch every moment. As long as you're moving the 
thing's simple enough ; it's when you try to stop that it's like 
trying to stand still on a bicycle. Wait, I'll show you. Push 
that table over. And if you don't 'mind I'll turn down the 
gas." 

It was not the heavy-legged Victorian table he wanted me 
to push over, but the one on which our glasses of lemonade 
stood, a flimsy affair of bamboo and wicker, hardly more 



98 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

than eighteen inches square. He rose, turned the yellow 
incandescent down to a glimmer, drew the table up before us, 
and brought the electric torch from his pocket. He began 
to speak with very much more volubility, very much less 
care. 

"The line of that table-edge is what I want you to keep 
your mind on," he began. "Never mind any other dimen- 
sion. You'll get the idea presently. I want you to imagine 
that edge a scale of years, with the higher numbers at your 
end and the lower ones at mine. You're to imagine that, and 
then you're to imagine that this lamp's my mind, me, my 
faculties, whatever you like to call it. You'll get on to it 
presently. Now watch." 

The torch was not of the stick-pattern, but of the flask type 
with a wider angle. In the middle of the table's edge he 
made a minute notch with his nail. A foot or so of the 
split-bamboo edge was illuminated, with this notch in the 
middle of it. 

"Now," he said. "You see that notch I've made. That's 
my present age thirty-three dead in the middle of the 
lighted portion. Now let's start. First of all I've got two 
memories. I've got one in each direction. I'm the only man 
who has. And this part of the edge that the torch lights up 
is my total range- both ways. Now watch me move the 
torch. If I move it your way" he did so "I get more of 
memory 'A' ('A' for Age) and less of memory 'B' ('B' for 
Boyhood). And if I move it my way" he moved it his 
way "I get less of 'A' and more of 'B.' See?" 

I saw. I began to wish I didn't. 

"Very well," he went on. "Obviously it's for me to decide 
where I want to stop, and then to do so if I can. And now 
the ,bother begins. If that scale could be numbered 
properly" he divided the words as I have divided them, and 
I felt cold at the intensity of his emphasis "if it could be 
divided as I want it divided, with thirty-three dead in the 
middle then forty-five would come here." He crossed his 
left hand over the one that held the torch, as a pianist picks 
out a single treble note, and dug another nick at my end of 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 99 

the illuminated portion. "Now," he continued, "let's see what 
the figure would be at my end. Forty-five less thirty-three 
is twelve, and twelve from thirty-three's twenty-one. It 
would be twenty-one." He registered another notch, this 
time at his own end. "But" swiftly he slid the torch his 
way "twenty-one's no good to me at all. No more good 
than a sick headache. I've got to be younger than that. 
You see what I've got to do. I've got to combine the two 
maximum phases of myself if I'm to write that book. But 
at the same time I've got to write it when I did write that 
kind of thing before. What does that mean? Where's a 
bit of paper?" 

He set the torch down on the table, where it made a vivid 
flat parabola of light, and took an envelope from his pocket. 
In the semi-darkness he began to jot down figures. 

"Here you are. Just a few specimen numbers for trial 
and error. I'm assuming that the scale's capable of regular 
division, which it isn't, for many reasons ; but let's take it in 
its simplest form. 

1 6 133 -So- 21 133 '45^30 '33 '& 

We needn't bother about the last one ; I only put it in to show 
that thirty-three's got to come in the middle by hook or by 
crook. Now do you see what I'm up against ? I must have 
sixteen at one end, I must have forty-five at the other, and 
I must if possible have thirty-three in the middle, because 
if I don't write this as I wrote The Vicarage of Bray, only 
infinitely more so, I shan't write it at all. But thirty-three's 
a false middle. Thirty's the true middle, and thirty's per- 
fectly useless to me. I was doing quite other things when I 
was thirty before. . . . But as matters stand, if I'm thirty- 
three I can only remember forty-five and twenty-one. If 
I'm thirty-three and remember sixteen, which is what I'm 
after, then . . . God knows what would happen at your end ; 
I should have to remember fifty, I suppose, and I've never 
been fifty to remember. So something's wrong, and I'm 
trying to fake it." r 



ioo THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Derry!" I choked. "For the love of God turn up that 
light!" 

"Eh? Certainly. Then I can show you my diagrams. 
This is all elementary stuff, but I thought it would give you 
a faint idea of the problem. Now the most important factor 
of all ; 

But I didn't want to see the hideous thing in diagram form. 
It even added to my horror that he didn't seem to see it as 
hideous at all. He was perplexed, impatient, angry even, but 
for the rest he had approached his problem as methodically 
and dispassionately as if he had merely been taking the 
reading of his gas-meter. Just so in the past he had ap- 
proached that sufficiently-enormous work, The Vicarage of 
'Bray and in the intervals had taken Julia Oliphant to 
Chalfont, jumped five-barred gates, and had posed for her, 
stripped to the waist with her sewing-machine held above 
his head. 

He had turned up the gas again, and was hunting in a 
corner for his diagrams, I supposed. Suddenly I rose, 
crossed over to him, and put my hand on his shoulder. 

"Leave it alone, old man," I said in a shocked voice. "I 
don't want to see them. I won't look at them. I'm too 
afraid. Give that book up now. We aren't meant to write 
books of that kind. Give it up, clear out of here, and let's go 
away together somewhere." 

I don't think I altered his resolution in the least. He 
merely patted my shoulder, humouring me. 

"Oh, we'll start it anyway, George. Once I get fairly 
going I don't mind taking a day or two or a week off with 
you. I always enjoyed stealing a few days when I was 
busiest. No, the thing's got hold of me, and it will have to 
run its course, like measles. I may possibly be able to 
split the difference between thirty and thirty-three. I'm 
doing my very utmost." 

"How?" 

It seemed to me that he became evasive. "Oh just little 
dodges " 

"Like watching slowed-down pictures?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 101 

He became still more evasive. "If I hadn't spoken to you 
to-night you'd never have seen me, you know," he re- 
proached me. 

"I've been looking for you though. And I did see you 
once." 

"Where was that ?" he asked quickly. 

"In a hansom, in Piccadilly Circus." 

He winced. "Don't, George," he begged me. 

"And you weren't alone." 

"George I say, George you see how I'm trying to keep 
steady. Must you throw me all over the shop again like 
this?" 

But somehow I was no longer afraid of him. It seemed 
to me that it might be no ill thing to anger him. Anger was 
at least a more human feeling than those hideous specula- 
tions of his. 

"What have you been doing since you left Cambridge 
Cifcus?" I demanded. 

My plan looked like working. He confronted me. 

"And what's that got to do with you ?" he said. 

"I think I could tell you what you've been doing. Natu- 
rally I shan't." 

He looked coldly down on me. "No," he said slowly, "I 
don't think I would if I were you. . . . And if you've seen 
me, I've seen you too," he added menacingly. 

"Before to-night ?" 

"Yes, before to-night." 

"Where was that?" 

There was contempt in his tone. "Oh, nowhere discred- 
itable. You're too magnificently steady for that." 

I cannot tell you why we were standing together in one 
corner of the room, body to body, with all the rest of the 
room empty. I only know that I was not afraid of him, and 
that my intention to provoke him was now fixed. Quite 
apart from those inhuman figures and graphs, this book 
that he was contemplating approached I will risk saying 
it the impious. 

"Well, where was it ?" I asked again. 



102 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

His eyes were unwinkingly on mine. "You were coming 
out of my place, if you must know. And I imagine my 
place is still mine. Since we're friends, I haven't asked you 
what you were doing there." 

"Then I'll tell you without asking. I've been staying 
there, on the chance of your coming back for something 
you'd forgotten. I've got your key in my pocket now, and 
I'm going back there to-night." 

He muttered, his eyes now removed from mine. 
"Damned good guess. I did come back. But I saw you 
across the road and turned away again." 

"What did you come back for?" 

"That Gland book. But I got a copy somewhere else." 

"I hope you found it useful." 

Then, all in a moment, the thing for which I was longing 
happened. He broke down completely. Instead of a man 
trying to maintain an insane tight-rope-balance on an inde- 
terminable moment of time, there pitched against me, crush- 
ing me against the wall and bringing down a shower of 
Trenchard's photographs, a man who could be met on com- 
mon ground of normal experience. His arms were folded 
over his face. I heard his groan within them. 

"Lord have mercy upon me! ... I oughtn't to have 
talked I oughtn't to have talked ... all unsettled again 
. . . but I can't let sixteen go ... perhaps it won't let 
me go. . . ." 

"For heaven's sake forget that nightmare!" 

But he mumbled despairingly on. "Shall have to be thirty 
... no way out of it ... why did I let myself talk! . . . 
Give us a hand, there's a good fellow " 

I got him into his chair again. I soothed him. I talked 
to him as if he had been a child. I told him he should be 
whatever age he wished, should write any kind of book he 
pleased, should come abroad with me. Then for a minute 
or so he seemed to go to sleep. I watched him. The sounds 
of car-washing had ceased, up the yard somebody whistled, 
and I heard a voice call "Good night." Past Trenchard's 
cretonne curtains that star of an incandescent on the upper 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 103 

landing went suddenly out. It- must have been half -past 
eleven. A more peaceful beauty stole over and possessed 
his face. 

But he was not asleep. He opened his eyes. He smiled 
faintly at me. 

"Well, George " he said with a heavy sigh. 

Then he told me the history of his past three weeks. 

II 

Of his past three weeks or his past two or three years, 
whichever you like ; for it was both. And now that he was 
in comparative peace I wished to spare him questions. That 
illustration with the flash-lamp on the table's edge had scared 
me half out of my wits ; and if the determination of "ratios" 
or what not meant much of that kind of thing, for the pres- 
ent we were as well without them. 

He had gone back to the point where, returning that after- 
noon to Cambridge Circus to fetch a book, he had seen me 
coming out of his house and had turned tail again. 

"The Gland book, you said?" I asked. "But I thought 
you'd decided that that road led nowhere." 

"So I had," he replied, "but in the meantime I'd seen a 
doctor." 

"Ah! You've seen a doctor? When was that?" 

"Not quite a fortnight ago. I'd been in here just two days; 
I've now been fourteen in all ; I've got every day and hour 
down in my diary ; as you may imagine, I've studied myself 
with the greatest care and tried all sorts of things by way 
of experiment. I simply must know how much is exact 
repetition, and if it isn't where the variations come in, you 
see. But it all ends the same way. There's always an un- 
accountable V that's constantly shifting, I suppose," he 
sighed. 

"But tell me about the doctor. I thought you'd decided 
that this was quite out of their line." 

"So I had, and so it is," he replied promptly. "I didn't 
go to a doctor to ask him to cure me." 



104 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Then why ?" 

"Well, I'd several reasons. One was that I'd met this 
man just once before, and for that reason alone he was part 
of my investigations. So far I'd experimented on people 
who'd met me twice, or three or four times before. I'm still 
experimenting, but at present the result seems to be that the 
better people know me the less they recognise me, and those 
who only knew me slightly take me for granted, I suppose." 

"And did this doctor recognise you?" 

"Well there you are. I simply couldn't tell. I waited 
for him in the full light of a window; I gave him every 
chance ; but well, I'd had to send my name up, and he was 
expecting me, you see. He simply said 'How d'you do, Mr 
Rose' and shook hands. Probably he never looked at me. 
He knew that Mr Rose was waiting, and therefore the per- 
son who was waiting must be Mr Rose." 

"So that was a wash-out. What else did you want to see 
him about?" 

"Next, I wanted to be thoroughly vetted as a man of 
thirty-three, you understand. It's all very well looking 
young, but you want to know whether you're really as young 
inside as you look. So I told him some sort of a yarn about 
an insurance policy and wanting to be overhauled for my 
own satisfaction before going to the company's doctor. So 
he asked me my age thirty-three, I said and ran all over 
me; and he was good enough to say that I was a very fine 
man and needn't worry about not being passed as a first-class 
life." 

"And then?" 

"Then I told him another cock-and-bull story. It was as 
an author that he'd met me before, you see, so I told him 
I was writing some fantastic sort of a book, and wanted one 
or two medical facts right. I had to go rather carefully 
here, of course, but I gave him, as nearly as I dared, an 
outline of what had happened, and asked him what about it." 

"And what did he say?" 

"He saw nothing very extraordinary in it," said Derwent 
Rose. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 105 

I jumped half out of my chair. 'What! What madman 
was this?" 

Then I saw the faint flicker of his smile, and sat down 
again. 

"Quite a distinguished madman, George ; incidentally he's 
a Knight. . . . But I don't want to pull your leg, old fel- 
low. He didn't put it quite that way. What he actually did 
say was that the more a man studied these things the less he 
would swear that anything was an impossibility. And he's 
a remarkable man, mind you. I've not much use for the 
average doctor, but this fellow's big enough to use plain 
English and when he doesn't know a thing to say so. His 
knowledge isn't just how to conceal his ignorance. And he 
might have been a novelist himself from the way he instantly 
grasped what I wanted to know." 

Not an impossibility! ... I couldn't have spoken. I 
waited enthralled. Derry continued. 

"So he began to talk about the ductless glands. Not just 
the thyroid. Everybody's got thyroid on the brain now- 
adays, but the thyroid's only one of them. There are a 
dozen others. And then he told me that practically nothing 
was known about them." 

As I hadn't the faintest idea what a ductless gland was I 
continued silent. 

" 'Well, Mr Rose,' he said at last, 'if you want something 
of that sort to happen to one of your characters I should 
put him through the War and let him get a bash over the 
pineal gland.' 

" 'Where's that situated?' I asked. 

" 'Here,' he said." 

And Rose tapped the middle of the back of his head with 
his forefinger. 

" 'And what would the effect of that be?' I asked; and he 
laughed. 

" 'Heaven above knows. You can say whatever you like. 
It might be anything.' 

" 'Would it account for actual morphological changes of 
tissue?' I asked. 



io6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

" 'I wouldn't say it wouldn't ; that would depend on the 
changes ; but I should be very pleased to look through those 
portions of your proofs, Mr Rose,' he said. . . . 

"So that was that. I went straight off to Cambridge Cir- 
cus to get the Blair-Bell book, but, as I say, I saw you across 
the road, so I got the book somewhere else." 

'The pineal gland !" I murmured, dazed. 

"Yes. One name for it's The Third Eye. Don't ask me 
to explain it. But if I understand my doctor-man the idea's 
something like this : There are these degenerated organs that 
man in his present stage of development has outgrown. A 
lizard's got what they call The Third Eye, and so has a 
lamprey, and lots of creatures. And the whole thing's the 
wildest nightmare imaginable. Takes you right back to 
fecund mud and the first seminal atom. One fellow, I forget 
his name, has a most hair-raising theory. He says that what 
they call the 'ancestral type' lived in the sea, rolling about 
like a log I suppose anyway it doesn't seem to have mat- 
tered whether he was upside-down or not. So its back and 
front were both alike. But as time went on it was more 
often one way up than another, and the creature began to 
adapt itself. It grew new eyes where it found them most 
convenient and stopped using the old one. Very likely the 
old one's the pineal gland. Or words to that effect. . . . 
So if you're now a 'bilaterally symmetrical animal with 
forward progression,' and your front's where you back used 
to be, and anything goes wrong, you're a sort of Mr Facing- 
Both-Ways, with two memories like me and all the rest of it. 
. . . And a whole philosophy's been built up on it. Roughly, 
a man's spirit and matter interpenetrate throughout every 
particle of him so that there's no dividing them everywhere 
except in one place. There they exist independently and 
side by side. All the mystery of life and death's supposed 
to be located there. And that place is the pineal gland." 

Remember, please, that this conversation took place, not in 
Bedlam, but in South Kensington. We were sitting in a 
commonplace loft over a garage, on ordinary chairs, with two 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 107 

half-emptied glasses of everyday lemonade before us. A 
gas-jet in an incandescent mantle hung from the ceiling, and 
in the neighbouring houses average people were beginning to 
think of their accustomed beds. They had pineal glands 
too, and might "get a bash over them," or fall downstairs, or 
collide with something, or meet with a street accident. 
Would they, respectable ratepayers of South Kensington, 
revert to that dim time before the waters were divided from 
the dry land, when they had rolled about like logs, slumber- 
ing and amorphous and unspecialised types, creation's first 
blind gropings towards the glory that at present is man? 
Would they develop an "A" memory and a "B"? Would 
these "bilaterally symmetrical animals with forward pro- 
gression" resuscitate that degenerated Third Eye in the backs 
of their heads and do this Widdershins-Walk back to their 
beginnings ? Rose's friend the doctor had said that nobody 
knew anything about these things. Man was only on the 
verge of this knowledge. It belonged to to-morrow and the 
days to come. 

And for the first time in my life I found myself wondering 
whether I did want to know so very much about those mor- 
rows after all. 

At last I found my voice. "Then you accept that ex- 
planation?" I said. 

"No," he replied. 

"Thank God for something! Why not?" 

"Oh, for various reasons. In the first place I only got it 
as a sort of fiction-stunt, remember. He merely said that 
nobody could contradict me." 

"And in the second place?" 

"In the second place, I still think yours is the better ex- 
planation not biology at all, but simple right and wrong, 
good and evil. Nothing of that kind ever did happen to me 
in the War that I know of I never got any whack over the 
head and there's one other thing that seems to me to 
prove it." 

"What's that?" 



io8 THE TOWER' OF OBLIVION 

"That I do know the difference between the better and 
the worse, and want the better all the time." 
"In other words God?" 
"I think God comes before a gland," he replied. 

Quite apart from his extraordinary interview with his doc- 
tor, the past few weeks had been a series of the commonest 
everyday incidents mixed up with sheer impossibilities in the 
most bewildering fashion. As I stoutly refused to see his 
diagrams and the details of his diary (though I saw them 
later), I could only touch the fringe of his experience at that 
time. I gathered, however, that in those slowed-down pic- 
tures he had found a certain relief, as also in some music, 
particularly organ-music ; and he had other alleviations of a 
similar nature. But I noticed that obstinately (as it seemed 
to me) he chose to regard the interval of time since I had 
last seen him, not as the three weeks it really was, but as the 
fortnight he had spent in that loft over the garage. Of the 
first of the three weeks he spoke not one single word. I 
need hardly mention the reason. He was looking farther 
back still. As he had been at thirty-five, so he had been in 
the twenties. Those "A" memories, so recent, were "B" 
memories too. . . . But that was a long way off yet. 

Yet among so much vagueness and fluctuation one thing 
was abundantly clear. He had left behind him the last 
vestige of the man who had written An Ape in Hell. At the 
very least he was now the man who had written The Vicar- 
age of Bray, and not impossibly he was an earlier man still. 
And here I had better say a word or two about the Vicarage, 
not as describing the book itself, but as isolating the stage 
he had reached and differentiating between his former and 
his present experiences of it. 

It was, of course, the "Tite Barnacle" portions of the 
book that had pleased the public, supposing the public to have 
been pleased at all. Yet, witty as these were, they were the 
least essential parts of the work. The book had to be classed 
as Political, Social, Economic, or some welding of all three 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



109 



descriptions ; and Rose was never the man to approach a sub- 
ject of this kind with his mind already made up. He recog- 
nised frankly (for example) that the mere mechanism of a 
Ministry or a Department is a gigantic thing, the men with 
the habit of running it necessarily few, and that to give con- 
trol to an unpractised hand would be fatal. Thus his book 
was no mere slap at what it was the fashion some little time 
ago to call The Old Gang. He refrained from the common 
gibe that the surest qualification for success in one depart- 
ment is to have failed in another. Instead, he examined, 
first the machine, and then the man in charge of it. Between 
these two an accommodation has always to be found. No 
system of government will prove altogether a failure if it is 
in the hands of the right men, and equally none will work 
if it is in the hands of the wrong ones. So he sought the 
equilibrium between the two. 

Not one reader in a million, laughing over that merciless 
and iridescent book that Julia Oliphant said he had written 
in little more than three months, had the faintest idea of the 
sheer burden of merely intellectual work that lay behind it. 
Piece by piece he had dissected the whole of our national 
economy before setting pen to paper at all. Bear with me 
for a moment if I take one little piece only Shipping. It 
will give an idea of the scale, not so much of the Vicarage 
only as of that far vaster thing the book he now projected 
and for the sake of which he clung so desperately to his 
"false middle" of thirty-three. 

Men (he argued) need ships ; but, over and above those 
who actually handle them, ships need men no less. From 
one standpoint ships exist in order that men may be carried 
from one place to another ; but from the opposite standpoint 
a ship is merely a hungry belly that must be constantly fed 
with its human food passengers. Without its meal of pas- 
sengers it cannot live for a week. Thus, the Thing must 
move the Man from one place to another whether he wishes 
it or not, whether in itself it is desirable that he should be 
moved or not. The ships of one nation snarl at those of 



no 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



another for this sustenance. Where then is the balance? 
Where does blind force get the upper hand, and where wise 
control? What happens if the power is usurped by a 
"Vicar" who can by no means be dislodged? ... I need 
say no more. You see the yawning immensities of it. 

And that was only Shipping. There were a hundred 
other things. He had applied his brilliant intellect to them 
all in turn, and had (as I may say) so "orchestrated" the 
whole that in the result it seemed the easiest of improvisa- 
tions. 

And now think what his present plan was ! 

He contemplated, not an analysis of one system, but a 
welding of analyses of all systems! 

That was why he sought to juggle with his own years 
that he might combine the enthusiasm of sixteen with the 
grasp and certainty and power of forty-five, and at the same 
time assure the coincidence between his past and his present 
impulses to create. 

Montesquieu had never dreamed of such a work Moses' 
task had been simpler. 

Therefore I saw the position as follows : 



He was thirty-three. 

He was in a rage to attempt a 
work for which no man 
had ever been equipped as 
he was equipped. 

He would make that python- 
meal of material and pro- 
duce a super-Vicarage. 

He was still hanging on, his 
enthusiasm at its keenest, 
his experience at its richest. 

Once he had got going he 
would take a week off with 
me, a day with Julia Oli- 
phant. 



But thirty-three was a false 
middle. 

But the dazzling endeavour 
might elude him at any 
moment. 



But he might be thirty again 
before he digested it. 

But he was hanging on as a 
straphanger hangs on tot- 
teringly, insecurely. 

But not until he got going. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION in 

One thing was clear. He would have to give it up. If 
necessary he would have to be made to give it up. If I 
couldn't persuade him, Julia must. But already I saw the 
cost to him. He was an artist, with a passionate need to 
create. He was an artist so highly specialised that the 
creation of a small thing merely irritated him. But see 
where he was placed! So close to the dreamed splendour 
that he brushed it with his fingertips, and then perhaps to 
see it recede, diminish, go out! To be conscious of that 
inordinate power, and to have the agony of knowing that it 
could not last long enough for the task to be completed ! To 
be unique, as he was unique, and yet to be forced to share 
the common bitterness and humiliation and despair ! . . . A 
few moments ago I risked the word "impious." To my way 
of thinking it was impiety. If it was not impiety I do not 
see why Prometheus was bound. 

For what was this monstrous right that Derwent Rose 
claimed, to put all the rest of us into the shadow of his own 
overweening and presumptuous glory? Who was he, to 
seize on immortality like this ? Not satin slippers with poor 
little feet inside them that would soon, too soon be dust 
not this was the sin. It was this other that is not forgiven. 
And man is forbidden to call his brother by the name that 
fitted Derwent Rose. 

Poor Derry ! Apparently he could do nothing right. As 
Julia had said, his whole life had been one marvellous mis- 
take after another. 

Suddenly I introduced Julia's name. 

He had not moved since his last words some minutes ago 
that he thought God was more than a gland. The mews out- 
side had come to life again. Cars were returning from 
suppers and the theatres ; the glare of their headlights played 
palely about the upper part of his window-frame. He now 
turned his head and smiled. 

"Good sort, Julia. But she's forgotten all about me long 
ago." 

"What makes you think that?" 

But instead of answering my question he went musingly 



H2 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

on. "Funny, that. Dashed funny. I forgot all about 
Julia when I was making those notes." 

"What notes?" 

"Why, of the way I strike people. Those who remember 
me and those who don't. I remembered that doctor, who'd 
only seen me once, but Julia, who's known me practically all 
my life, I go and forget all about. In fact there's only about 
one other person who's known me as long as Julia has, and 
she absolutely failed to recognise me when I spoke to her a 
year or so ago." 

My nerves became all jangled again. "Derry how long 
ago?" 

"About a year. ... As you were. What am I talking 
about ? Must stick to onescale of time, I suppose. I ought 
to have said about ten days ago." 

"WTiat was all this ?" I asked, though I knew well enough ; 
and he became grave as he unfolded another aspect of his 
singular case toime. 

"It's difficult to explain to you, George, because you know 
the whole thing though how you kept your reason when I 
told you I can't imagine; magnificently steady! ... As a 
matter of fact this other person I mean was Mrs Bassett; 
you remember I'd been looking for her. Well, I met her 
one day and spoke to her" he coloured a little at the mem- 
ory of the details he suppressed ; "and by Jove, it was a les- 
son to me ! A perfectly hideous risk ! I was on the point 
of telling her who I was when I drew back, just in time. 
God, how I sweated ! I'm cold now when I think she might 
have recognised me. . . . Imagine the scene, George; 
woman screaming and falling down in a fit in the street 
because she thinks a ghost's spoken to her. And the ghost 
himself this ghost" he tapped his solid chest "a ghost 
marched off between a couple of policemen if two could 
hold me I don't believe ten could my strength's im- 
mense immense " 

"But but then haven't you even a name to anybody who 
sees you more than once or twice?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 113 

Slowly he shook his head. "You see. You see as well 
as I do. It seems to me that to everybody but you I'm 
simply dead. I can't go about giving people fits like that. 
That was a lesson to me, speaking to Daphne Bassett. I'll 
never do such a thing again. ... So that cuts out Julia Oli- 
phant. Pity, because she was a good sort. Always the 
same to me; just a pal. She used to give me expensive 
paste-sandwiches for tea when I knew she couldn't afford it ; 
I used sometimes to stop away on that account. That was 
when she lived in Chelsea. Then I lost sight of her for a 
bit, but I've thought a good deal of her lately. I never had 
a sister. . . . Don't mind my running on like this, old fel- 
low. I've nobody but you to talk to, nobody at all. Funny 
sort of situation, isn't it a ghost like me mourning for liv- 
ing people? That's practically what it amounts to." 

At something in his tone I interposed abruptly. 

"Derry," I said, "you haven't been thinking of putting an 
end to yourself, have you ?" 

He stared at me for a moment. 

"Eh?" he said. "Why not? Of course I have. One of 
the first things I did think of. I've been pretty near it, and 
if I find I can't write that book I shall be near it again. 
And" he bent the grey-blue eyes solemnly on mine /'shall 
I tell you what would completely settle it? If anybody 
should see that ghost and scream ! . . . I've got a most fear- 
ful power, George. A man who can make people scream as 
I could oughtn't to be at large. Ghosts ought to get where 
they belong off the map altogether. My God, if it slipped 
out one day when I didn't mean it just these three words 
Tm Derwent Rose' " 

Then suddenly his voice shook pitiably. He spread out 
his hands. 

"George, old fellow, you can't imagine what a joy it was 
to see you at that place to-night! You haven't realised it 
yet you don't know what I went through before I plucked 
up courage to speak to you. You're the only living creature 
I used to know that I can know now the only one the only 



II 4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

one on earth. I know them, but I daren't daren't let 
them know me. It gets very, very, very lonely some- 



times " 



Lonely sometimes ! My heart ached for him. It seemed 
to me that that loneliness was a gulf that all the pity in the 
universe could not fill. No, I had not realised. I had thought 
I had, but I hadn't. It now came quite home to me that, 
while he was free to make a new acquaintance at any 
moment he pleased, that acquaintance could hardly last 
longer than the moment in which it was made. For say it 
lasted for three weeks. At the end of those three weeks 
the hand he had taken would be three weeks older, but his 
own hand might be a hundred weeks younger. And so it 
must go on : hail and farewell. He, beyond measure 
gifted, was denied this gift. He could not stop by the way 
to make a single friend. For others the calm and gentle 
progress to age, the greetings among themselves, the accost- 
ing by the loved familiar name; but Derwent Rose had no 
name. Without a name Daphne Bassett had set a dog on 
him; what would she have set on him had he said "I'm 
Derwent Rose"? Lightning was safer to handle than that 
name of his. It might miss but it might hit, make mad, 
kill. 

Sooner or later, I supposed, I should have to tell him that 
Julia Oliphant knew as much about his state as I knew my- 
self. I had had no shadow of right to betray him to her thus. 
But in the meantime he was resolved that he would not turn 
that voltage of his identity either on to her or anybody else. 



Ill 

In its way, one of the most singular portions of our con- 
versation occurred when I asked him how he was placed as 
regards money. After all he must have money. Even a 
man who lives his life backwards must eat and have his boots 
soled, and pay twenty-five shillings a week for a loft over a 
garage. At first he seemed reluctant to answer me. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 115 

"I'm afraid I ran through rather a lot just at first," he 
said hesitatingly his first admission that he had not in- 
habited Trenchard's garret for the whole of the time since I 
had last seen him. "But that will be all right. I can make 
lots of money." 

"How?" ("Not by that book of yours," I said emphati- 
cally to myself.) 

"Oh, you needn't worry about that. I assure you I can. 
I've thought it all out most carefully." 

"I wish you'd tell me." 

Then, eagerly, jerkily, he unfolded his maddest idea yet. 

"I told you you hadn't grasped it. Nobody grasps it till 
they've got to live it. You see, it's all a question of time. 
Now look at it carefully. . . . I'm not fixed. I'm a con- 
stantly moving quantity. For that reason I can't take .an 
ordinary job like anybody else. Oh, I could get one all 
right. It would be the simplest thing in the world for me 
to walk into one of these Sandow places, Ince's or Jones's or 
any of 'em, and say, 'Just pass me a few of those two hun- 
dred pound weights,' and scare 'em alive with what I could 
do. In fact that's the whole situation I should scare 'em 
alive. You can't show pupils one man one day and perhaps 
a different one altogether the next; it isn't decent. Here's 
a nut for you to crack, George : I'm dead, a ghost. But my 
appearance is one of the most conspicuous things you ever 
saw. A man like me can't hide himself. The King or the 
Prince of Wales might walk down Piccadilly unrecognised, 
but not an athletic phenomenon like me. So as well as being 
the loneliest, I'm also one of the most public men living." 

"So you propose to make money out of athletics ?" 

"Steady ; let's take it as it comes. I've thought it all out, 
and I don't see a single flaw in it. Here's the problem: I 
want a large sum of money, I want to make it honestly, and 
if possible instantaneously, that is to say while I'm still sta- 
tionary. Now how am I to do it ?" 

"You can't do it." 

"Well, I say I can." 

"How?" 



n6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

You wouldn't guess in a hundred years what it was he 
proposed to do. 

He intended to fight Carpentier. 

"All in the fraction of a second, George," he said, appeal- 
ing for my approval. "Knock-out punch for one of these 
mammoth purses, fix yourself up for life, and then disappear. 
It's absolutely sound reasoning." 

"It's the craziest thing I ever heard." 

"Why?" he asked, his eyes innocently on mine. "It's 
perfectly feasible." 

"How would you get the match? Do you suppose any 
promoter would look at you? Would any champion? 
Would his manager let him? Remember that champion- 
ship's a business. Champions make money as long as they're 
champions and no longer. They take no risks. And part 
of their business is to sidestep dangerous matches." 

But he had an answer to that that evidently seemed to him 
conclusive. His eyes sparkled. 

"Exactly! That's the very reason I picked Carpentier. 
Carpentier, man, Georges Carpentier! He isn't a sidestep- 
per ! He's the most thoroughgoing sportsman alive ! Look 
at the way he gave that Yorkshire lad his match ! Sidestep, 
that Frenchman? Look here. You know I speak French 
like a native. Well, I shouldn't in the least mind going 
straight up to him and putting the whole proposition before 
him." 

"That you were out after his championship and inci- 
dentally his living?" 

"Yes, and I jolly well know what he'd do." 

"So do I. He'd turn you over to Descamps and the nego- 
tiations would last a couple of years. That isn't instan- 
taneous." 

"He'd do nothing of the sort. That great fellow? . . . 
Kiss me. He'd kiss me on both cheeks, shout 'C'est gat* 
and tell Descamps to fix it up straight away. Of course I 
wouldn't hurt him." 

I stared, "Could you put Carpentier out?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 117 

He laughed. A laugh was his reply. 

"But suppose an accident can always happen suppose 
he put you out ?" 

This time I had not even a laugh for a reply. 

He was fast asleep. 

Asleep, dead off, and in that moment of time ! The instant 
before his eyes had kindled at the thought of what a lark it 
would be to take on that peerless Frenchman and put him 
out ; now, between a question and an answer, those eyes were 
closed and he slept profoundly. 

With immense profundity. I bent over him and spoke his 
name in his ear. I shook him by the shoulder. He was 
unconscious of either action. His colour was blooming, his 
breathing deep and easy; else his sleep seemed to have the 
immensity of death itself. Under the glaring incandescent 
mantle he was theatrical in his beauty, superb in the relaxa- 
tion of his strength. I could not take my eyes off him. It 
was almost frightening to see that complete annihilation of so 
much physical and mental power. 

To write that book and to fight Carpentier! He had 
worked it coolly and impudently out. The analytical facul- 
ties he would have brought to the one task he had merely 
applied to the other, and he had arrived at the perfectly 
logical answer that the way to make the maximum of money 
as nearly instantaneously as possible was to knock out Car- 
pentier. 

I could only gaze spellbound at him as he slept. 

What to do now ? 

I was aware that this question had been waiting for an 
answer ever since we had left that picture-house in Shaftes- 
bury Avenue. I had now found him, or he me; but what 
next ? Let him go again ? But apparently he did not want 
to go ; he clung to me pathetically, as to the single companion 
he had in the world. Take him away somewhere ? But he 
had refused to come, had urged that monstrous book. Was 
I to stay here with him, to stay all night, to stay till Trench- 
ard's return? That was, to say the least, inconvenient. 



ii8 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Should I put him to bed? Somehow I hesitated to disturb 
that vast unconsciousness. Poor fellow, he richly earned 
all the rest he got. 

I went into the bedroom, brought out Trenchard's quilt, 
and spread it over him. I moved his head gently to the 
padded portion of the wicker chair. I made him as com- 
fortable as I could. Then once more I stood irresolute. 

It was now after one o'clock, and that powerful sleep had 
cut us clean off in the middle of things. I had much, much 
more to ask him. I wanted to know his intentions about his 
rooms in Cambridge Circus, whether he thought of return- 
ing there, whether he wanted his furniture stored or sold. 
If to myself and Trenchard and possibly a few others he 
was still known as Derwent Rose, I wanted to know what 
his name was to tfie rest of mankind. Merely as a means of 
communication with people he did not wish to meet face to 
face, I wanted to know* whether his handwriting had 
changed, whether he used a typewriter, what his signature 
was like. 

And above all I wanted to know what steps I must now 
take with regard to Julia Oliphant. 

Of course I intended to tell her everything, and to tell 
him that I had done so. The worst I should risk would be 
his momentary anger that I had betrayed him. He had 
wished to spare her a meeting with himself, but he had not 
known that she was unsparable. More than that, she was 
indissuadable. I should not be able to keep her from him. 
And, if he clung so touchingly to me, found me so "mag- 
nificently steady," what comfort would he not find in that 
unvarying constancy of hers? He might break out on me 
for the moment, but he would bless me for it by and by. 

I sat down in the other chair. I was very tired. I dozed. 

In perhaps a quarter of an hour I opened my eyes again. 
He had not moved. It was a mild night, the deep chair was 
not uncomfortable, and I dozed again and again woke. 
Still he slept. I muttered a "Good night, poor old chap." 
I was too drowsy even to get up and turn down the incan- 
descent light. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 119 

This time I slept as soundly as he. 

Afterwards he blamed himself that he had not sent me 
away ; but that sleep had dropped on him like a falling beam. 
All his sleep, he explained, was like that. Immeasurable 
chasms of time seemed to have passed away between his 
closing his eyes and his opening them again. 

So this is what came next : 

A light creaking of his chair brought me suddenly wide 
awake and sitting up. A peep of grey daylight showed in 
the upper portion of the window-frame, but the incandescent 
mantle still glared yellowly above his head. He had moved, 
but without waking. He turned his head and slumbered on. 

But the turn of his head had brought his face into the 
light. . . . 

He only shaved once a day, in the morning; and on the 
following morning he shaved again. But it was his whole 
beard that he thus shaved off daily, thirty days' growth in a 
night. He had had no set intention of growing that beard 
that I had seen in the hansom. A few days before coming 
to Trenchard's place he had woke up one morning, stroked 
his face, and found it there. 

There he slept in his golden beard. 



IV 

"Most certainly he shall write his book," Julia declared. 

"Not if I can prevent it," I replied. 

"We'll see about that. You don't think he'll give us the 
slip again?" 

"I don't think so I mean he doesn't seem to want to at 
present." 

"And he was all right when you left him? Is he com- 
fortable there? Had he a good breakfast? Was his bed 
made ? Does anybody go in and clear up for him ? Had he 
any flowers?" 

"He's quite all right there. He wants to see me as much 



120 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

as he can. He'd ask me to stay with him, but he's deter- 
mined to get ahead with that book." 

I did not tell her of any other reason why he might wish 
to be alone when he woke up in the morning. I assumed 
that a man's shaving operations could have no interest for 
her. But this is what had taken place : 

On seeing his first signs of stirring I had slipped quietly 
into his bedroom. There, lying on his bed, I had pretended 
to be asleep. I had heard his tiptoe approach, the slight 
creaking of the door as he had peeped in, his stealthy cross- 
ing to the dressing-table, where his razors were. Then he 
had stolen out again, and I had heard a kettle filled and 
other preparations. A quarter of an hour later he had (as 
he supposed) woke me. He stood there by the bedside 
with a cup of tea in his hand. His chin was smooth. I 
wondered about that other morning when, passing his hand 
over his face, he had first found the beard there. And I 
wondered what his companion, if he had had one, had 
thought of it. 

"But he shall write his book, poor darling," Julia repeated. 

This was at half -past ten in the morning, in her studio, 
whither I had walked straight from Derry's loft over the 
mews. 

"He ought to be locked up for life if he does," I answered. 

But she was very obstinate. Derry (she said) should do 
whatever he had a mind to do. More than that (and a 
crafty light stole into her dark eyes as she said it), she in- 
tended to help him. 

"To write his book ? And what do you know about writ- 
ing books ?" 

"I didn't say to write his book. You say he's what d'you 
call it? sharpening his tools, getting himself fit. Well, I 
can help him to do that." 

"How?" 

"I'll leave the door open so you can hear." 

She ran out of the studio to the little cabinet where her 
telephone was. I heard the following, her side of the con- 
versation that ensued. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 121 

"Is that 9199? Miss Oliphant would like to speak to 
Mrs Aird, please. ... Is that you, Madge ? Yes, this is my 
dinner-call. . . . Oh, like a top, and I know your phone's 
by your bed. Madge, my dear, I want to know who that 
learned person was I was talking to last night: yes, the 
bibliomaniac person. . . . Who?" Then, with a jump of 
her voice, "What, he's staying with you ? He's in the house 
now? Do send for him immediately. ... Of course not, 
you goose, but you have an extension, haven't you? . . ." 

And then this: 

"Oh, good morning! Miss Oliphant speaking. . . . Ah, 
you've forgotten! . . . Most frightfully excited about our 
conversation last night. Will you tell me again the title of 
that book and whether I can see it in the British Museum? 
Wait a minute, I want to write it down. . . ." 

Then, carefully and as it were a letter at a time : 

"Manuel du Repertoire Bibliographique Universel. 
. . . Yes, I've got that. . . . Paris, 44, Rue de Rennes. . . . 
Now the other book, please. . . . Decimal Classification 
and Relative Index. . . . Yes. . . . Melvil Dewey. ... Is 
that enough to identify them?" 

Then a rapid perfunctory gush, a "Thank you so much," 
the receiver clapped on again, and re-enter Julia, her face 
ashine with triumph. 

"Well, did you hear all that?" she said. "You can take 
me along to the British Museum as soon as you like. You'll 
have to get me into the reading-room, because I haven't a 
ticket. Then if I were you I should trot away off to Hasle- 
mere." 

"Who's that you were talking to?" 

"A most fearful bore I met at the Airds' at dinner last 
night. At least I thought he was a bore then. Now he's 
a duck and an angel and I could kiss him all over his bald 
old head. Goodness is always rewarded, George, but 
not often the next morning like this." She clapped her 
hands. 

"You're less comprehensible than ever I knew you, which 
is saying a good deal." 



122 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Dear old George! When you're bald I'll kiss you too. 
And Derry shall write his book." 

"And fight Carpentier?" 

"Poodledoodle!" 

And she flitted out again, unfastening her painting-blouse 
at the back as she went. 

I knew enough of Miss Oliphant by this time to treat her 
apparent irresponsibilities with respect. I had never heard 
of either of the books of which she had spoken over the 
telephone, but I risked a guess at their nature Biblio- 
graphique Universel Decimal Classification evidently the 
subject was indexing, and she had met somebody at dinner 
the night before who had led her into these arid fields. 
Naturally she had been bored. But now she was in a rap- 
ture of plotting and machination. She intended to assist 
and encourage Derry in that inordinate plan of his. She 
came in again, dressed for walking, humming a blithe tune. 

"Dear, dear Providence! There was I ready to snap 
Madge's head off for seizing quite a nice man herself and 
giving me old Drybones, but now I'm going to send her 
some flowers. See the idea, George?" 

"What are these books?" 

"The very latest thing in the way of indexing. It lasted 
nearly the whole of dinner. Oh, I love myself for being 
so good ! He drooled along, and I said 'How thrilling' and 
things like that, thinking of something else all the time, and 
now this gorgeous piece of luck!" 

"A Universal Index?" 

"Yes, of the whole of human knowledge. It's all done 
with decimals or do they call them semicolons ? Dots any- 
way. You can turn up anything from the solar system to 
a packet of pins at a moment's notice. If Derry doesn't 
know about it he'll dance with joy. . . . But come along. 
I must see those books. Let's go by bus. You can get me 
a reader's ticket, can't you?" 

She pushed me out in front of her and closed the door 
with a reckless bang. All the way to the bus she talked 
as delightedly as if it had been her birthday. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 123 

"So I shall mug up those decimals and things and then 
go and be his secretary. I know more or less how he wrote 
his Vicarage. He used to stride up and down my room, 
thinking aloud about it. And this will be the same, only 
enormous! He says he wants to make it as Moses made 
his Decalogue? He shall, bless his heart. Why shouldn't 
he? I don't see your stuffy old objections, George." 

"One of them is that Moses didn't 'make' the Decalogue. 
He went up into Sinai for it." 

"Well, leave Moses out then. Any other reason?" 

"I've told you. If it isn't exactly blasphemous, it's get- 
ting on that way." 

"Why?" she said with heat. "Was the Vicarage blas- 
phemous? He's simply going to do the Vicarage again, 
but on a huger scale. If he can write a gigantic book why 
should you say to him 'No, you mustn't write that write 
a littler one instead'? He's perfectly entitled to write the 
biggest book he can. He's just as much entitled to it as 
you or any other writer. You only call it those names be- 
cause it's bigger than yours." 

She glowed with jealousy for his fame. He was her 
demi-god, and she would have had all the world bow down 
before him. She would not have him second to Homer 
she would not have him second to Shakespeare. At least 
so it struck me, and I could only shake my head again and 
again and repeat that in my opinion it was not a legitimate 
ambition. 

We had mounted to the top of a motor-bus, where we 
occupied a back seat. For some minutes she did not speak. 
Then, as she still continued silent, I looked at her face. At 
the same moment her face turned to mine. 

What worlds away from the truth I was that clear look 
told me. His fame? She didn't care twopence for his 
fame, except that it might amuse him. His book? She 
didn't care whether he wrote his book or whether he didn't. 
To her, fame and books were the vanities with which men so 
incomprehensibly amuse themselves when they might be 
thinking of something that mattered. It was enormously 



124 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

more than that that her eyes told me on the top of that east- 
bound bus that morning. 

For if he wished to remain thirty-three, she too as in- 
tensely wished and willed it. He should write any book he 
wanted, do anything on earth he liked, so long as that loft in 
a South Kensington mews became an upper room in Cre- 
morne Road all over again. She would flutter about, pre- 
tending to be indexing 1 the whole mass of human knowledge 
for him, clipping and pasting and filing within sound of his 
voice; but what she would really be doing would be to cut 
Patum Peperium sandwiches for him, to see that he fed 
himself properly, opened his windows, made his bed, had 
his washing and mending properly done. That former 
Vicarage period had been the summer of her life ; she would 
now thrust herself in the way of it once more. That she 
might do so with some sort of countenance she was on her 
way to read those thorny books in the British Museum. The 
latest thing in indexing was the bait with which she set the 
trap of her adoration. She would humour, encourage, 
wheedle, praise. But she too would have her summer 
twice. 

We did not speak again until we descended in Totten- 
ham Court Road and walked along Great Russell Street. 
Then as we approached the Museum railings she turned 
abruptly to me. She wanted her final confirmation of the 
facts. 

"You've told me all that he said about me?" 

"Yes." (This was untrue. I had suppressed one thing. 
I had not told her that he had sometimes stayed away from 
Cremorne Road because she bought things for him she 
could not afford.) 

"And he's no idea at all that I know anything whatever 
about it?" 

"None whatever." 

"Tell me again about his having sometimes thought of 
me lately." 

I did so. "For all I know he might even have come to 
see you but for the fear of giving you that shock." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 125 

"Well, you didn't die of the shock, so why should I? 
Come and get me my ticket." 

We passed through the glazed doors and along the Ro- 
man Gallery. I rang at the closed door where the tempo- 
rary tickets are obtained. There was no difficulty, and 
slowly we walked past the double row of Caesars and Em- 
perors again. I had taken her arm. Somehow I suddenly 
felt as though I were about to lose her, perhaps for a long 
time, perhaps for an even longer one. I spoke in a low 
voice. 

"Do you think it will be safe ? Just to walk in on him, 
I mean. Wouldn't it be better to prepare him first?" 

"No, no that's the one thing I am sure of." 

"Are you sure you can trust yourself?" 

"I don't know. If I can't there's an end of everything, 
so I must." 

"What about our going together?" 

"No, nor that either." She flushed a little as she said it. 

I think, though I am not sure, that there was jealousy in 
that flush. In that unspeakable solitude of his Deny had 
so far only a single friend myself. She was prepared, if 
she could, to steal my share of him, to have him all to her- 
self. 

"But I've got to see him to-day ; I promised it," I said. 

"Then off you go now, while I'm here. But you're not to 
say a word about my coming. Then if I were you I should 
get off to Haslemere." 

She meant I had better get out of the way altogether. I 
sighed. . . . "Well, come and get your books." 

We sought the reading-room, and I put her into a seat and 
passed to the catalogue counter. I took her slips to her for 
signature, dropped them into the basket, and then returned 
to her. It was early, and few readers had yet arrived. 
We were in the "N" bay, which we had to ourselves. I 
saw her look up at the million books, dingy and misty in the 
pale light of the high rotunda. I saw her dark eyes travel 
' along the frieze of names in tarnished gold Carlyle, Tenny- 
son, Browning. In the past I have spent a good deal of 



126 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

time in the reading-room ; now it is a place I get out of as 
quickly as I can. It crushes me, annihilates my spirit with 
the weight of the vanity of vanities. Of the makers, as 
well as of the making of books, there is no end. They are 
born, they lisp, they spell, they write; and then they die. 
The eager heart, the busy brain, are a few tarnished letters 
on a frieze, a strip of paper gummed into the casualty-list 
of a catalogue. We think, write, and to-morrow we die. 
Only one man was not going to think, write, and die to- 
morrow. He was going to be different from all men who 
had gone before him. Because of something that had hap- 
pened to him, he was going to blazon his name, not in that 
circular cemetery of dead books, but across the whole width 
of the heavens outside. 

And this tired woman trifling with the tips of her long 
fingers against the book-rest as she waited for her books 
was going to be his accomplice. She was going, by means 
of something called love, to keep him at that acme of his 
powers where innocence and wisdom met and in the past he 
had thrown her a friendly word from time to time. She 
was going, single-handed, to arrest that backward drift of 
his life. Whatever had caused it should be thwarted in her. 
He should not be thirty. He should remain, if she could 
compass it, thirty-three for as long as he wanted for the 
rest of his life and hers. 

I wondered the dome did not fall on her. 

Presently she turned her head and smiled in my eyes. 

"Well, don't you wait, George. Thanks so much. Good- 
bye." 

I left her sitting there, in that vast and brown-hued well, 
still waiting for her books, 



PART IV 
THE DOUBLE CROSS 



A conspicuous feature about my small house in 
Surrey is its lake eighty yards by forty of clear dark 
water among the oak and willows, spring-fed and with 
trout in it. This lake lies immediately in front of the 
house, where other houses have their lawns. It needs a 
good deal of attention, for springtime sheddings that are 
charming on grass are messy on water, and nothing but 
wind can sweep the glossy surface. But its infinite variety 
of mood lights up the whole place like a smiling eye, and 
I am very attached to it. 

Not more than a quarter of an hour's bicycle-ride away 
is a preparatory school for boys up to the age of fourteen. 

Need I say that I have had to put up a diving-platform 
at one* end of the lake? 

There are, of course, certain rules : bicycles to be left at 
the potting-shed, diving from the punt not allowed, not 
more than four bathers at one time, etc., etc. But within 
these limits the pond is as much theirs as mine, and seldom 
a summer afternoon passes without a bathing-party. 

I had done Julia's bidding and had come back home 
again. It had been on a Wednesday morning that I had 
left her waiting for her books in the reading-room of the 
British Museum. It was now Friday, and I had not heard 
a word either of her or Derry. 

I had tried not to think of them. Finding that impossi- 
ble, I had wandered restlessly up and down, no good to 
myself or to anybody else. On Thursday, and again on 
Friday, I had almost returned to London. I could not 
shake off that picture of her, sitting alone in that dreary 
rotunda of accumulated human knowledge. Had she 
started that crack-brained index, he his terrifying book? 

129 



130 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Had she gone to him ? What had she said ? What had he 
replied? I could neither guess nor forget about it. As if 
he had infected me with something of his own calamity, 
my mind too was in two places at the same time among the 
Surrey oaks and sweet-chestnut, and in that loft where he 
had lived over the South Kensington mews. 

My study is an upper room at the front of the house, with 
French windows that open on to a wide verandah. I often 
drag out a table and work outside. But work that morn- 
ing was impossible. I was too unsettled even to answer 
letters. So I walked out on to the verandah and leaned on 
the ramblered rail. The oaks across the lake were turning 
from gold to green, and the two big willows by the diving- 
stage were a ruffle of silver-grey. Under the clear surface 
the trout were basking shadows. I wished the afternoon 
were here. It would at least bring the boys to bathe. 

Suddenly I heard my housekeeper's step on the verandah 
behind me. She always walks straight through the study if 
she gets no answer to her knock. 

"Miss Oliphant," she announced. 

I nearly jumped out of my skin. 

"Miss Oliphant! Where?" 

"In the drawing-room, sir." 

In five seconds I was through the study and half-way 
downstairs. The drawing-room is a cool, low-ceilinged 
apartment at the farther end of the house. It has windows 
on two of its sides, those to the north green with brushing 
leaves and a ferny bank, the others glazed doors that that 
morning stood wide open. As I entered I heard mingled 
laughter. 

They both stood there. 

They were silhouetted against the sunny opening, laugh- 
ing like a couple of children. Perhaps the joke was that 
Julia only had been announced. I stood watching them 
for a moment ; then I advanced. 

"Good morning," I said. 

Julia gave a swift turn. The next moment she had 
pushed Derry forward. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 131 

"You explain I wash my hands of it," she laughed. 

She wore thick shoes and a walking-costume, and on her 
head was a little felt hat with a pheasant's feather. He 
had on an old tweed jacket and grey flannel bags. He held 
out his hand. 

"Hope we're not dragging you from your work, George," 
he laughed. "Do you good anyway. I felt like a day off, 
so I dug out Julia. 'Down tools, Julia/ I said; 'no work 
to-day. Where shall we go ? Shall we give George Cover- 
ham a surprise?' So here we are, to lunch, please. By 
Jove, there's a kingfisher!" 

He sprang out on to the terrace to see where the electric- 
blue flash had whistled off to. 

Swiftly I glanced at Julia. In her eyes was the old deep 
shining. But Derry called over his shoulder: 

"That was a young one, wasn't it? Is there a nest? 
How many hatched out ? Do they go for the fish ?" 

He seemed splendidly fit, perfectly happy. He seemed 
so happy that suddenly I wondered what I had been making 
myself so miserable about. A weight seemed to lift all at 
once from my mind. Too much London had oppressed me, 
I supposed. Cambridge Circus is not the place for a coun- 
try-living man to stay too long in. It bred too many fancies. 
Much better for the Circus-dweller to come into the coun- 
try. 

"It went over by that bank," Derry was saying, still peer- 
ing after the kingfisher ; and I stepped out. 

"Yes. The nest's right in the bank. Six of them 
hatched. You'll see another in a minute." 

But at that moment his eyes fell on the punt. Quickly 
he turned to Julia. 

"Years since I've had a punt-pole in my hand!" he 
exclaimed. "Is it in working order, George? Come 
along 

"You go, Julia," I said ; and I returned into the house to 
see about lunch. 

What had happened ? Had he really brought her out for 
the day on his own account, as formerly he had used to do ? 



132 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Or was she allowing him to think that he had? Was he 
repeating himself even textually, in those words "Down 
tools, Julia, no work to-day"? I must know. It was es- 
sential that I should know. Yet already something in his 
manner told me that I should not learn it from him. He 
was here not to talk about himself, but to enjoy, keenly 
and vividly, every moment of his day. Whatever my own 
megrims had been, he showed none. Not he, but Julia, 
would have to explain matters. 

Suddenly I took a resolution. I pushed at a baize door. 

"Mrs Moxon!" I called. 

My housekeeper appeared. 

"Would it be upsetting your arrangements if I asked my 
visitors to stay for the week-end?" I asked. 

She considered a moment; then she thought it could be 
managed. But she seemed puzzled. 

"It is Mr Rose, isn't it?" she said. 

Derry, I may say, had been to my house twice or thrice 
before. 

"Of course." 

"I thought it was, sir, but they told me only to say Miss 
Oliphant." 

"Oh, that was their little surprise for me," I replied. 
"Very well, Mrs Moxon. Lunch, and I'll ask them to stay 
for the week-end. My sister left a few things, didn't she?" 

"That'll be all right, sir. I'll see to Miss Oliphant." 

I came out of the house again and sought the lake. They 
were out in the middle of it, lying down in the punt together 
with their heads over the side. They were watching the 
trout. I was on the point of hailing them when I refrained. 
Something dramatic in their juxtaposition pulled me up 
short. 

Their heads were together, their laughter came across the 
water. She was having her summer again. But what would 
it cost her? Her unchanging adoration and his affection- 
ate indifference ! He had never cared, he never would care. 
To-morrow he would have forgotten all about it. But she 
would have still another day's memories to add to those 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 133 

others when he had jumped five-barred gates with his pipe 
in his mouth and his stick in his hand memories of my 
punt and pond and the greening oaks and the silvery wil- 
lows. . . . Yet she was laughing as carelessly as he. They 
were playing a game. A willow-leaf had floated like a 
fairy shallop towards them, and he was blowing it her way, 
she blowing it back again. 

Then a dragonfly caught their attention, and they forgot 
the willow-leaf, as instantly as children forget. 

At lunch I sat with my back to the open windows, they 
where they could look out. Apparently he had completely 
forgotten that night, only three days ago, when he had told 
me that I was the only one of his old acquaintances to 
whom he dared reveal himself. He called her Julia, she 
him Derry, and to both of them I was George. We laughed, 
joked, said anything that came into our heads; but beneath 
it all I was in an extreme of curiosity. How had they 
come together ? What had happened that there was now a 
second person in the world to whom he could pronounce 
his name? 

Half-way through lunch I made my proposal that they 
should remain for a couple of days. His brow suddenly 
clouded. I watched him carefully, and I knew that Julia 
was watching him as carefully as I. 

"Awfully good of you, George," he said in a suddenly 
altered voice, "but I really don't think I can spare the time. 
I only downed tools for one day, you know. I really must 
get back." 

"But to-morrow's Saturday. I promise to let you go on 
Sunday evening if you really must." 

"I'm so fearfully busy, you see," he said uneasily. 

Under the table I felt Julia's foot touch mine. She 
spoke. 

"Fancy Derry talking like a minor novelist about being 
busy!" she laughed. "Why, you always used to say that 
if it was as hard work as all that something was wrong 
and ought to be seen to!" 



i 3 4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

His brow instantly cleared again. "That's so," he said. 
"Did I say that? I'd forgotten. Busyness is all bunk, of 
course; made for duffers. A thing either does itself or it 
doesn't. . . . Right, George, I'll stop if Julia will. I hope 
you won't mind if I go to bed rather early though. I really 
have been hard at it, and I need a lot of sleep." 

"This air'll make you sleep," I assured him. I did not 
add that if he wished to go to bed early lest he should sink 
into abysmal sleep in the middle of a sentence he should 
have his wish. Razors and a spirit-lamp were going to be 
put into his room. A little teapot and caddy would also be 
placed there. I intended to tell Mrs Moxon that he was 
faddy about his early-morning tea. He might then use his 
hot water for any purpose he wished. 

We took coffee outside, and then went for a stroll round 
my few acres. In the kitchen-garden he had a new idea. 
Over a hedge at one end of it, well out of the way, was a 
rather unsightly dump of old household rubbish tins, burst 
buckets, old zinc baths, broken utensils of every kind. A 
few spadefuls of earth are thrown over these from time to 
time, and a handful of nasturtium-seeds once in a while 
helps to mitigate the eyesore. 

"You want an incinerator, George," he announced. 
"Here's all your stuff ready. Hammer this old junk out 
flat, get the blacksmith to cut a few rods, a cartload of 
stones and a few barrowloads of clay, and there you are. 
Lots of fine ash for your beds too, though I shouldn't think 
this soil needed much. Got a pencil? I'll show you " 

He made rough sketches of the incinerator on the back 
of an envelope. 

We strolled back to the pond and the punt again, and 
he threw off his coat, turned up his sleeves, and poled us 
up and down. He glowed with vitality and power. Both 
for strength and delicacy of touch he did whatever he liked 
with the punt. One beautifully-finished little feat he per- 
formed. A blossom of water-starwort floated on the pond 
some fifteen yards away. Julia's hand was trailing lazily 
in the water. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 135 

"Keep your hand just as it is," he ordered her. 

She had only to close her fingers on the blossom. With 
one perfect stroke, one complicated thrust of the pole, that 
included I knew not what components of opposite forces 
reconciled to one end, the flower sped swiftly to her hand 
and rested there. There was no jar, only a thrilling as of a 
sound-board as the punt fetched up still. He laughed with 
pleasure at his skill. 

Then at that moment I heard the sound of boys' voices. 
The bathing-party had arrived. I turned to Julia. 

"They come every afternoon. Would you like to go up 
to the house, or will you stay here in the punt under the 
trees?" 

"Oh, in the punt, please," she said; and Derry turned 
quickly. 

"Bathing? Did you say boys were going to bathe? I 
say, that's rather an idea! Got a spare costume, George?" 

Across the lake a stripling figure stood on the diving- 
stage with a towel about his shoulders. It was Du Pre 
Major. He dropped the towel, stood poised, and then came 
the sound of a plunge. Derry 's eyes shone. In a moment 
he had put the punt in under the trees. 

"That's done it," he laughed. "Can I ask your house- 
keeper for a towel ?" 

"You know my room. You'll find everything you want 
there." 

"Right. I've nearly forgotten how to swim " 

He stepped from the punt and ran lightly round the pond. 

Julia's wet fingers still held the flower. Her head hung 
a little down, so that the light from the water was thrown 
softly up on to her face. Her eyes, but her eyes only, 
moved as the sound of another plunge was heard; but it 
was only the other Du Pre and Southby. I did not speak. 
There would be time enough for talking after Derry had 
gone to bed early. 

Then over by the house a gleam of white appeared. It 
was Derry with a robe of towelling over his shoulders. He 
did not take the path to the diving-board; instead, he 



136 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

dropped the towel on a grass border, looked aloft for a 
moment, and then took a straight run at one of the willows. 
It was a "cricket-bat" willow, and it overhung the diving- 
board at an angle out of the vertical. How he managed 
the leap I do not know, but in a moment he was up the tree 
like a squirrel, poised in the fork, laughing down at the 
surprised boys on the stage below. 

"Stand clear," he called. 

His path through the air was a swallow's. There was a 
soft plunge, a hissing effervescence as of black soda-water, 
and he shot to the surface again like a javelin, a dozen yards 
away. 

"Oh, ripping plunge, sir !" one of the boys called raptur- 
ously. "Jimmy! Did you see it? Did you see that?" 

"Come in let's make a dog-fight of it!" Derry cried. 

And one after another they tumbled in and splashed to- 
wards him. 

I have been told that that Friday's four are still the en- 
vied of the whole school. He was very wonderful with 
them. The dog-fight over he set to work to coach them. 
They had never seen the stroke that consists of turning the 
left leg from the knee downwards into a screw-propeller, 
so that the swimmer travels forward, not in a series of im- 
pulses, but at a uniform rate of progress. He showed 
them in the water, and then hoisted himself to' the diving- 
platform and showed them there. The stage became a 
comical waggling of nubile white legs. 

"No, no," his voice came to us, "from the knee think of 
a screw and about a six-inch stroke with yourjeft hand 
it's worth learning makes swimming as easy as walk- 
ing- 



"Show us a racing-stroke, sir " 

"Shut up, Jimmy. Is this right? It does catch your 
knee, though " 

"Do that dive again, sir " 

Then, when Derry judged they had had enough of it, he 
ordered them out. He himself did a final dash of the 
whole eighty yards and back again, while the water boiled 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 137 

behind him. Then he sought his wrap and disappeared into 
the house. 

"He's 'some' swimmer, isn't he?" said Julia softly. She 
had neither spoken nor moved. 

He was. 

But even I could see that he knew nothing of women. 

The bit of water-starwort was still in her hand. Sud- 
denly with a little laugh she tossed it over the side. 

"Oughtn't he to have some tea ?" she said. . . . 

I do not wish to labour the details of that afternoon. I 
may say that already I had a very distinct and curious im- 
pression of them, namely, that they were details, isolated 
and without continuity; but I will come to that presently. 
We sat rather a long time over tea, and Derry talked. The 
only subject he seemed to avoid was that of his work. 
Otherwise he was alert, keen, dead "on the spot." On 
athletics he was extraordinarily illuminating. Granted that 
as an engine his body was pretty near perfection ; it was on 
the "fundamental brainwork" of the subject that he laid 
the greatest stress. The modesty of the demonstrations 
which he made on the verandah before our eyes was alto- 
gether charming; he was as simple and earnest with us as 
he had been with the boys. For such-and-such a perform- 
ance (he showed) your balance must be thus and thus; for 
swiftness, a certain speed of movement must be the per- 
fectly-synchronised sum-total of half a dozen different 
speeds. I am no very remarkable athlete myself; I have 
always supposed that I lacked some special gift; but Derry 
spoke almost as if, by the mere taking of thought, he could 
add a cubit to his leap or plunge. He took his sport and his 
writing in very much the same way. You "just helped 
nature all you could." 

Then he was back on the subject of the incinerator again. 

Shortly after that it was an oak that ought to be lightened 
on one side unless I wanted to have a hole torn in the bank 
of my pond. 

Then, dinner over, he began to fidget. This was at a 
little after eight o'clock. At twenty past he rose abruptly. 



138 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"It's that bathe I suppose," he yawned. "If you don't 
mind I think I'll turn in. You said I might, you know " 

"I'll show you up," I said. 

"Don't trouble," he replied, Julia's hand in his. 

But I wanted to make sure that the tea-caddy was where 
I had told Mrs Moxon to put it. 



II 

On the night when he had half scared me out of my 
wits with that horrible demonstration with the electric torch 
on the edge of the bamboo table, he had been careful to ex- 
plain that he was putting the question in its most elementary 
form. There were (he had said) other factors, and more 
important ones. One of these had already occurred to me. 
Stated as simply as possible, it was this: 

As he had held the torch that night, with that notch that 
"had got to be thirty-three" in the middle of the illuminated 
edge, about six inches on either side of the notch had come 
within the lamp's beam. "Keep your eye on that edge and 
never mind the other dimensions," he had said, and he had 
proceeded to manipulate the lamp. 

But how had he determined the distance at which the 
lamp must be held from- the table's edge? 

You see the enormous importance of this. The lighted 
portion of the edge was the extent of his memory, faculty 
or whatever one may call it. But what about that memory's 
quality as distinct from its extent? Suppose, instead of 
holding the torch a foot away, he had held it three inches 
away only? The nearer the shorter but the brighter; the 
farther away the longer but the dimmer. Our childish 
recollections are intense, but of small things; as we grow 
older we remember more, but more vaguely. ... I find 
that I shall have to make use of the parallel columns again. 
Indeed I begin to suspect that I shall have to do so through- 
out. Was this then the position? 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



139 



BY APPROACHING THE 
LAMP 

He might re-live a given age 
again with great intensity. 

Emotion or passion might be- 
come predominant charac- 
teristics, at the expense of 
intellectual comparisons. 

He certainly would not suc- 
ceed in any task that de- 
manded width of outlook 
first of all. 

He might concentrate so bril- 
liantly as to perform a mo- 
mentary and sensational 
feat say to knock out Car- 
pentier. 



A summer's day in the coun- 
try might be almost unbear- 
ably beautiful to him. 



BY WITHDRAWING THE 
LAMP 

The intensity would dimin- 
ish but the scope of mem- 
ory would enlarge. 

He might become compara- 
tive, critical, philosophic, 
but at the cost of intensity 
of emotional experience. 

He might be in danger of in- 
cluding so much that he 
would become diffuse and 
pointless. 

The speculative man might get 
the upper hand of the prac- 
tical one and he would fail 
in a supreme momentary ef- 
fort in other words, Car- 
pentier would knock him out. 

It would me merely a matter 
of fresh air and exercise, to 
be set off against the work- 
ing hours lost and the cost 
of two railway tickets. 



I am anxious not to go beyond my brief. I knew that 
for the purpose of his book he was attempting to manipulate 
himself, but what his success had so far been I did not 
know. Nevertheless all the possibilities had to be consid- 
ered, and the more I thought of this one the more it im- 
pressed me. For practical purposes, these differences of 
memory-intensity might turn out to be the pivot on which 
all else turned. 

For suppose that he had no choice but to go back and 
re-open the closed book of his life, and that nothing that 
Julia or I could do would stop him. Whether in that case 



i 4 o THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

was the better : to live as it were day by day and hour and 
hour, with joy and grief experienced at their highest pitch, 
or to continue to possess to the full this unique and double 
knowledge, of a past that had been a future and of a future 
that was once more a past? 

To put it in another form, since he must do this Widder- 
shins Walk, was it better for him to know he was doing it, 
or to do it knowing as little as possible about it ? 

Or, in its simplest form of all, would he be happier with 
or without a memory of any kind? 

I said good night to him at the door of his room and 
closed it behind me. I had not taken more than a couple 
of steps when I heard him softly lock it. I went down to 
Julia in the drawing-room. 

Even on a warm summer's evening, when the windows 
stand wide open, I like a wood fire. Outside the heavens 
were a beauteous pink glow, with one amber star. The 
trout were rising for their evening meal, and a sedge- 
warbler sang short sweet phrases. From time to time a 
moorhen scuttered along the surface of the pond, and the 
smell of night-flowering tobacco floated into the quiet room. 
But Julia had no wish to go out. Into a pair of my sister's 
slippers she had thrust her worsted-clad feet, and she was 
toasting her toes and smiling into the fire. 

"Is that window too much for you?" I asked. 

"No." 

"Then put this shawl over your shoulders. You'll have 
hot milk to go to bed with." 

"Thank you, George." 

"And now," I said, drawing up my chair opposite to her, 
"tell me what's happened since Wednesday." 

She mused. "Happened to him?" 

"I want to know all that you did. Did you go to him?" 

"No. He turned up at the Boltons this morning and 
dragged me out, exactly as he said." 

"But " 

"Oh. I'd sent him a note." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 141 

"Ah! I wondered. . . . What did you say?" 

"It was only a couple of lines. I forget what the exact 
words were. I merely said that I shouldn't be in the least 
afraid of anything, and that anyway I hadn't a dog to set at 
him. Just that. Nothing else. I wrote it in the Museum 
after you'd gone." 

"And that fetched him round?" 

"Yes." 

"Well, what did he say?" 

She hesitated. "That's just it, George. He hasn't even 
referred to it." 

"What, not in any way?" 

"Not in any way." 

"He just came into the Boltons as if nothing had hap- 
pened, and he's talked all day as if nothing had happened ?" 

"That's exactly it." 

"He's not mentioned his book?" 

"Only what you heard at lunch." 

"He is writing it?" 

"One would gather so. You know as much about it as 
I do." 

I gazed into the fire. A louder splash came from the 
pond one of the three-pound rainbows. Julia resumed of 
her own accord. 

"You see, when you left me in the Museum I really didn't 
know what to do. After what you'd told me I didn't want 
to risk upsetting him by simply walking in to his place un- 
announced. So I wrote that note, and he'd get it last night. 
And he was round early this morning. But he hasn't even 
mentioned the note. I suppose he got it, but things aren't 
in the least like what you told me. You told me he was 
passionately grateful at finding you. Well, that doesn't at 
all describe his manner to me. He's jolly, keen, full of 
enjoyment and zest at everything that comes along and 
that's all. He must have understood my note; that's why 
I put in that bit about the dog ; if he didn't understand he'd 
have to ask what that meant. But not one single word. 
What do you suppose has happened ?" 



142 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

A little disingenuously I asked her. what she meant by 
"happened." 

"To him of course. I've told you all 7 did. It must have 
been rather heartrending between you two ; so why this per- 
fect composure now that there are three of us ?" 

I didn't know. I was a little afraid to guess. But again 
I pondered that distance of the torch from the table's edge. 
. . . Julia was still gazing into the fire, her long hands be- 
tween her knees, so that her walking-skirt shaped them. 
Then suddenly she looked from the fire to me. 

"How many things has he talked about to-day, since he's 
been here?" she asked abruptly. 

I moved uneasily. "Oh how many things does one talk 
about in a day? Hundreds," I replied. 

"But at such a pitch!'' She threw the word at me with 
almost accusatory energy. "Top-note all the time birds' 
nests, punts, athletics,, incinerators, those boys bathing " 

Less and less at my ease, I could only urge that a holiday 
was a holiday, and that Derry might as well have stayed at 
home as bring his cares with him. 

"You think it's just that?" she demanded, looking me full 
in the face. 

"I should say so." 

"Hm!" 

But in spite of that rather critical "Hm!" she seemed 
reassured. Suddenly she gave a soft chuckle. 

"He was rather wonderful with those boys," she said. 

"They're nice boys." 

"What a games-master he'd make!" Then, with a sly 
and guilty look in her eyes, "What shall we do to-morrow, 
George? Oh, it's ripping luck, being here unexpectedly 
like this !" 

"What would you like to do? There's the car if you 
want to go anywhere !" 

"N o," she said reflectively, as if running over in her 
mind a dozen delectable plans. "I think just potter about 
here. Rushing about in cars ... no, it's perfectly ador- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 143 

able here. I don't want to set foot out of your grounds. 
George, you are a duck !" She hugged herself. 

Whether he was living from moment to moment or not, 
there was no doubt about her. She basked shamelessly. 
I am not making her out to be anything she was not. She 
was a ready, practical creature, by no means above what is 
called feminine littleness, not very young, but with her own 
beauty. It was, too, her beauty's hour. Sitting there be- 
tween the firelight and the fairness of the evening outside, 
long-throated, cool-browed, with the glow of the wood- 
flames richly in her eyes, her body seemed an ivory lamp 
that guarded its light with sacred and jealous care. And 
that flame was to all intents and purposes stolen. She now 
intended, calculated, planned, contrived. Up to that mo- 
ment I had supposed her to be waiting (as it were) in that 
remembered Sussex village, waiting at the centre of what- 
ever mystery had happened to him, waiting for him to come 
back to her. But now I knew that she was doing nothing 
so passive. She was not waiting. She was prepared to 
bring events about. To the little that he had spared her on 
his forward journey she was prepared to help herself im- 
measurably as he returned. Like a footpad she watched 
his drawing-near. Sitting there by my fire, with that day's 
memories still glowing about her, she was contriving fur- 
ther ones for the morrow. . . . 

And suddenly the whole scope of her daring flashed upon 
me. At twenty-eight she had failed to get him. Now, at 
forty, she would not scruple to make use of whatever arts 
she had since acquired. 

She would, if she could, marry Derwent Rose. 

I cannot tell you my stupefaction at my own discovery. 
It was wellnigh with awe that I looked at her. For in that 
case her adventure was hardly less tremendous than his 
own. That is what I meant when I said that he began to 
constrain us and to draw us into the wheel of his own 
destiny. To marry a man of diminishing age! To marry 
a man who had lately been forty-five, was now at some un- 



144 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

known point in the neighbourhood of the thirties, and would 
presently miraculously re-attain adolescence! What un- 
heard-of marriage was this? 

As if she enumerated something to herself, one slender 
finger-tip was on another. "First I shall go with him to the 
blacksmith's about those rods," she said softly. 

I avoided her gaze. "I don't know," I said, "that I want 
an incinerator built." 

"But Derry wants to build it," she answered, as if that 
settled the question. 

"He may have forgotten all about it to-morrow." 

Swiftly she turned on me. "What do you mean by 
that?" 

"The plain meaning of the words he may have forgot- 
ten." 

"Do you mean something about his memory?" 

"Which memory ? He's two of them so far." 

"Teh! . . . You just this moment said that he was de- 
liberately putting things away from him because this was a 
holiday. Did you say that just to keep me quiet? Don't 
you believe it yourself?" 

"I neither believe nor disbelieve. I simply don't know." 

"Oh, you're tiresome! ... In plain English, then: are 
you suggesting that when he came to me this morning, the 
only reason he didn't mention my note was that he had for- 
gotten all about it in the night?" 

I shrugged my shoulders. It all happened in the night. 
That was why he went to bed early. That was why I had 
given him a spirit-kettle for tea or shaving. Something 
might have happened during the night of which she spoke. 
Something might be happening in my house at that very 
moment. 

"Do you mean his memory's cracking up?" she demanded. 

"I think we could find out." 

"How?" 

"By getting him to talk about his book. To write that 
book he must draw on both his memories, experiences, or 
whatever you like to call it. That's his whole equipment 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 145 

f or jt two conscious experiences, with himself balanced in 
the middle making the most of both. We might find out 
that way/' 

"Oh, there's a shorter way than that," she said. 

"What? 1 ' 

"To ask him." 

I shrugged my shoulders again. "Yes. . . ." 

And then I took her entirely off her guard. Outside the 
pink had turned to peach, and the amber star had become 
a diamond. Suddenly, as they do, the trout had ceased to 
rise, and a single short squawk came from the moorhens' 
nest. I rose and stood before her. 

"Julia," I said without warning, "would you marry him ?" 

She might not have heard. I thought she was never go- 
ing to reply. She drew the shawl a little more closely 
about her shoulders, and I crossed the room and closed the 
windows. Then I returned to my place in front of her. 

At last she spoke. 

"I suppose you may ask that," she said. "The answer is 
Yes." 

"You've considered it?" 

"Yes." 

"Everything it would mean ?" 

"Yes." 

"And you think you've the right?" 

She stared at me. "The right?" 

"Yes, the right. Look at it this way. There's no doubt 
at all about one thing; he isn't the same man to-day, or at 
any rate he isn't in the same mood, that he was two days 
ago. He may be just deliberately putting his work aside 
for a day, or he may be the other thing. He may be going 
on with his book on Monday morning or he may be quite 
past it already. It makes a good deal of difference to you 
which of these two men he is." 

"It makes no difference." 

"Oh yes it does. In the one case you'd be simply his 
secretary, and things would be more or less as they were 
before. But for the other he wouldn't want a secretary. 



146 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

That mad book would be all over and done with. You 
saw him as he was to-day: one quick brilliant impression 
after another. That man might write a few vivid short 
stories, but never that appalling book. . . . Look here, 
Julia, I didn't want to tell you, because the whole idea gives 
me a shudder ; but this is the way he explained it himself." 

And without any more ado I told her of his demonstra- 
tion with the electric torch and of my own additions thereto. 

She was not afraid of much, that woman. I had almost 
written that she took it perfectly calmly, but that was 
just what she did not do. But it was no fear of immensity 
and the blackness of Infinity that she showed. Rather she 
seemed to see an opportunity to be snatched at. That face 
that I have likened to the ivory of a lamp betrayed the soft 
radiance that she tried to, but could not hide. 

"Yes, that gives it," she breathed. 

"So you see what I mean by 'having the right/ You'd be 
there, the nearest, the brightest, vivider than everything else. 
. . . Have you the right ?" 

She laughed softly. "You mean I'm a baby-snatcher?" 
she said. 

I did not reply. 

For that was about the size of it. Did he remain in that 
mood, there she would be in the punt with him, or holding 
iron rods for him as he set out the plan of the incinerator, 
or hunting with him for the kingfishers' nest, or watching 
him as he bathed with to-morrow's batch of boys. He 
would blow little boats of willow-leaves to her, bring water- 
blossoms gliding into her hand. To-morrow evening they 
would watch that amber star together, stroll along my wind- 
ing paths as the glow-worms came out. That was to be her 
theft to press herself home in the glamorous irresistible 
moment, let what would afterwards befall. My modest lit- 
tle estate was to be her antechamber to paradise, and un- 
wittingly I had set open the gates of it for her myself. 

And she was laughing at me for it openly laughing at me. 

"Well the portrait for the Lyonnesse Club's getting 
along, very nicely, George," she laughed. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 147 

"Dear, dear Julia " I began. 

"That earnest expression's rather good. What a pity I 
didn't bring my painting-tools we might have got a good 
day's work done to-morrow." 

"My dear " 

Then, suddenly, "How long have you actually known 
Derry, George?" she demanded. 

"About fifteen years." 

"Not longer? Then you don't know what's coming 
next?" 

I don't like to be smiled at as she was smiling. I jumped 
up. 

"Yes I do," I said with a flush. "What' s coming next is 
that you're not going to do this. You're going to promise 
me not to. Be his secretary, his nurse, his housekeeper, 
anything else you like, but you're not to do this. It it's 
nothing else it's " 

"Taking a mean advantage, you mean?" she supplied the 
words for me. "But he never did know anything about 
women. Why shouldn't he learn, poor dear?" 

"Julia, you can't have thought ! A man without an age ! 
A man, except for you and me, without even a name a week 
together! A man who says of himself that he's to all in- 
tents and purposes a ghost haunting anybody who happens 
to know anything about him ! . . . Anyway you shan't." 

"Shan't I, George ?" she asked with a long deep look into 
my eyes. 

"That you shall not." 

She too rose and stood before me, one elbow on the man- 
telpiece. She drew up the walking-skirt an inch or two and 
pushed at a log with her foot. 

"Of course it isn't as if you and I could ever quarrel, 
George," she said. "There, I'm burning your sister's slip- 
per. I say we can't quarrel, because we're ever so far be- 
yond that. Therefore we can talk quite plainly about any- 
thing on earth, or under it, or above it. So now tell me why 
I mustn't marry Derry." 

I thought of the man upstairs, of the spirit-kettle on his 



I 4 8 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

table, of why he must be alone when he woke in the morn- 
ing. 

"There are physical reasons, if there weren't any others." 

"Of course. He'll get younger. He'll be sixteen. Well, 
I can be his mother then. But I shall have been his wife." 

"For how long?" 

She lifted her beautiful shoulders. "What does that mat- 
ter ? I said his wife. Does any bride on her wedding-day 
ask herself how long it's for? There have been widows 
who've never even taken breakfast with their husbands." 

"But they married men like other men." 

"Pooh! Tell that to any woman in love! They're all 
Derrys as long as it lasts, and he's Deny as long as it lasts." 

"But his memory?" 

"We don't know that anything's the matter with it. Really 
you're very hard to please, George. First you complain that 
he's got too much memory and he's writing what you call a 
wicked book with it. Now you seem afraid he hasn't 
enough to get married with. If he's happier without a 
memory at all, what's the odds?" 

"But yourself?" 

"Oh, I can look after myself now! And anyway you 
needn't worry about my memory !" 

Yet that was what I was worrying about. How gorgeous- 
ly she had enriched her memories that very day I had seen 
for myself. Openly she exulted in her treasures. But 
what was to be the end of it all ? By marriage did she mean 
one last wild lovely memory more and after that nothing? 
If so, was ever degree so inconceivably prohibited? A 
dark-haired child in the wrong seat in a village church a 
few odd hours in the country that it might have been a 
mercy to spare her that day in my own house and grounds 
to-morrow with whatever it might bring perhaps an- 
other day or two unless he overtook another milestone before 
then . . . and then the relative and inevitable sequence: 
his bride, his elder sister, his mother, aunt, elderly 
adviser and friend, and so on to the close. This was the 
prospect she was deliberately embracing. Here she espied 
her joy. . . . 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 149 

And should there be a child? . . . 

She had sat down again. That appearance of a quarrel 
between two people who could never quarrel was at an end. 
I lifted the logs, arranged her shawl again, and then also 
sat down. Mrs Moxon brought in a tray, with hot milk 
and biscuits for her and whisky for myself. She set a 
small table between us. Julia's slender fingers played as it 
were a tune as she moved the too-hot glass from one posi- 
tion to another. Mrs Moxon gave a final glance round, 
wished us good night, and went out again. I mixed my- 
self a peg, and then turned to Julia. 

"I think you were going to tell me, when I interrupted 
you, what happened before I knew Derry," I said. 

Little pistol-like cracks began to break from the green- 
oak logs I had moved. A thin pouring of amethyst 
streamed up the chimney-back, and the heart of the fire 
was intense pink and salmon. The glow from the ceiling 
made semi-transparent the rich shadows of the farther re- 
cesses of the room. It was true that as against my fifteen 
years she had known him for more than thirty. My own 
personal knowledge of his history was now on the point of 
failing. Only to her could I look for an anticipation of 
what might next be expected. 

"Yes," she said musingly, "Anyway I'm prepared for 
it." 

"What was it?" 

"You don't know?" 

"Only in a general way that at some time or .other he 
must have travelled .a good deal." 

She nodded. "That's it. His Wanderjahre. He walked 
mostly Italy, Germany, France, racketed about all over 
the place. Broke hearts wherever he went too I expect. 
It was then that he picked up his wonderful French." 

"Then do you think that that phase is falling due 
again?" 

She shook her head slowly. How could she tell? "I 
only had occasional letters from him at that time. Usually 



ISO THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

to smuggle him out some tobacco or see about a letter of 
credit or something. I had one from Siena, and one from 
Trieste, and another from Nlmes. . . . But," she added 
briskly, "if I married him of course I should go with him. 
That would solve everything." 

"Would it!" 

"I mean if his appearance changed much. You say your- 
self he can't stop in one place for long. He can't even take 
an ordinary job. And you seem to think that's a reason 
why I shouldn't marry him. But to my mind it's the very 
reason why I should. He shan't be left to tramp the world 
all alone, poor boy. I'm quite a good walker." 

But for the shawl round her shoulders, the glass of hot 
milk and my sister's slippers, she seemed ready to start 
immediately. 

"Julia, are you well off ?" I suddenly asked her. 

She smiled. "The sooner I'm paid for that portrait of 
you the better, George," she said. 

"Because," I continued, "his royalties won't keep his 
boots soled, and as for that mad idea of fighting Carpen- 
tier " 

She made an indifferent gesture within the shawl and 
sipped her milk. 

"And now," I pursued her, "I want you to notice how 
you've changed your mind this last half -hour or so. As 
you sit there now you haven't the least intention of becom- 
ing his secretary. In fact you're calmly planning how you 
can murder that book of his." 

"How do you know that, George?" 

"You are. Remember the flash-lamp. He wants to light 
up his time-scale from sixteen to forty or thereabouts. You 
want it like a burning-glass, all concentrated in one bril- 
liant spot yourself. In other words you're planning a 
mental assault on him." 

She laughed delightedly. "Before committing a physical 
one? George, you shock me! I hope you're not going to 
lock me into my room!" 

"Further than that. You don't intend to lose a moment 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 151 

of time, because those Wanderjahre may be drawing very 
near." 

Her mouth was prim. "It's a difficult position, George." 

"Do you intend to ask him outright to marry you ?" 

"It's a very difficult position," she repeated demurely. 
"Suppose he accepted me one day and forgot all about it 
the next. I should have to propose to him daily, shouldn't 
I?" 

"I don't think you need joke about it." 

Her daring eyes positively fondled my face. She showed 
all her teeth in a wide smile. 

"Why not?" she asked. "What else is there to do? 
You wouldn't have me take it seriously, would you? How 
can it be taken seriously?" 

And she added, stretching her long hands to the fire, 
"Why, it would be the least serious marriage there ever 
was !" 

Ill 

By breakfast-time the next morning I had taken a re- 
solve. I had slept little for thinking of it. I intended, if 
I could, to make Derry talk about his book. 

For while I abhorred the very idea of that book, there 
was one thing I abhorred more. This was the thought of 
the collapse of his memory. If anything happened to that 
the situation was horribly simple. A man who, from hav- 
ing had two memories, passes to not having one at all, is 
gently but without any further pother locked up. And 
had that been the end of it I don't think I should have had 
the heart to write Derry's tale. 

He came down, shaven, radiant, hungry. I had heard 
his plunge into the lake three quarters of an hour before. 
Julia too was fresh as the dew, and ate heartily. So, over 
coffee and kidneys and bacon, with such offhandedness as 
I could assume, I asked him point-blank how his book was 
getting on. 



152 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

A wave of thankfulness passed over me at his very first 
words. 

"I say, George," he protested, "this is a holiday, you know. 
Must we talk shop? By sheer strength of will I've put it 
all on one side for a couple of days, and here you are trying 
to shove my nose back on to the grindstone again! Bit of 
a nigger-driver you are. . . . Well, just for the length of 
one pipe; after that shop's taboo for the rest of the day. 
What is it you want to know about it?" 

"Oh, just how it's shaping." 

He told me. His account of it as far as it had gone, 
his projection of the continuing portion, were perfectly 
lucid, reasoned, logical. He brought all his faculties to 
bear, was completely master of himself. His memory was 
as clear in both directions as it had been. I tested this 
by means of one or two questions that otherwise are of 
no importance here. All was well. My most dreaded fear 
was removed. Indeed it was I who, at the end of our pipe, 
had to change the subject. 

One awkward, rather shamefaced explanation, however, 
he did make. This was both to Julia and to myself. 

"I ought to say one thing while I'm about it," he said 
in a halting and embarrassed voice. "I got your note, Julia. 
I know what you mean. How you tumbled to it I don't 
know, and I needn't say it's an unspeakable com- 
fort having the two of you. I'm not going to look a gift- 
horse like that in the mouth, so if you don't mind we won't 
talk about it. I suppose George told you, though ?" 

"Yes." 

"Then that's all right. Of course he won't tell anybody 
else. If he'd asked me first I might have kicked a bit, 
but it's turned out all right, so that's all we need worry 
about. . . . Now what are we going to do to-day? Those 
trout at all muddy, George? Give me a mayfly and let's 
have a try at one of 'em " 

I got him a rod and warned him against the telephone- 
wire that has to cross one end of the pond. I left him 
and Julia mounting the cast on the verandah. 






THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



153 



I went up to my study. I went there from a motive not 
unlike gratitude to God. An embodied ghost Deny might 
be to the rest of the world, but our little private triumvirate 
had still a normal basis. He understood the whole situa- 
tion, and so to us was no ghost. Nor was even the prospect 
of his Wander jahre now quite so intimidating. The terror 
would have been to think of him as an ignis fatuus, uncon- 
scious of himself, flitting hither and thither over the face 
of the Continent at large. Cogito, ergo sum. The distance 
of the lamp from the table's edge was apparently not an 
irrevocably fixed factor. "By sheer strength of will" he 
had been able to vary it. He could enjoy intensely and 
reason infallibly, if not at one and the same time, at any 
rate by turns. He was still capable of work and of play, 
and at the maximum of either. 

How, then, did she stand with her wild scheme of marry- 
ing him? 

I sat down at my table and worked it out thus : 



While he was in his working 
mood he was inaccessible to 
her. 

As his secretary she could not 
hope for more than a repe- 
tition of her former experi- 
ence. 

His work occupied by far the 
greater portion of his time. 

Therefore his work must be 
discouraged. 

I had done her a disservice. 



His Wander jahre would pres^ 
ently be upon him again. 



But while he was at play his 
accessibility was a raised 
power. 

But as his playmate she met 
him on his return journey 
he as he had been, but she 
far more rusee and resolved. 

Therefore his work stood in 
her way. 

But I had encouraged him to 
speak of it. 

But they were at play at this 
moment, setting up a fish- 
ing-rod on the verandah. 

She knew this, and would 
lose no time. 



154 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I think that states it fairly. 

And she had the whole day and the whole of to-morrow 
before her. 

I began to wonder whether I had done wisely in asking 
them to stay after all. 

But perhaps I was troubling myself unnecessarily about 
this moonshine-marriage after all. What about him? He 
at least would see the monstrous anomaly and would never 
allow it. He at any rate knew that if there was one place 
on earth where no woman must come it was into^his room 
between evening and dawn. Things far too terrifying and 
precise happened during those hours. He knew this, and 
five minutes between him and myself would settle Julia's 
business once for all. 

But again I saw in a flash where I was wrong. Five 
minutes between him and myself? It couldn't be done. 
Why? For the simple reason that, in order to talk to me 
at all on such a matter, he would have to be in his aware 
and "working" mood the very mood in which he had 
always been inaccessible to her. My answer would be 
a stare from those steady grey-blue eyes. "Marry Julia!" 
he would exclaim. "My dear chap, what on earth are you 
talking about? If I'd ever dreamed of marrying Julia 
shouldn't I have done it years ago ? It's the very last thing 
in the world I ever thought of !" That would be his reply 
to me. I should be warning him against a contingency 
he had never for a moment entertained. 

And yet for even that was not the end of it it was 
perfectly possible that with that word "Preposterous !" still 
on his lips he might go straight to her, hand her into the 
punt, once more alter his focus of intelligence, and be under 
her spell again before they were half-way across the 
pond. . . . 

Suddenly I heard his call below: "Quick, Julia, the net 
I've got him on!" I stepped out on to the balcony to 
watch. It was one of the three-pounders, making a good 
fight for it. But he had little chance against my green- 
heart in Berry's hand. Three minutes settled it. There 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 155 

he lay on the bank, with Derry and Julia bending over him. 
I think she thought him a lucky fish to have been caught 
by Derry. I descended and joined them. 

"Going to try for another?" I asked him. But already 
he was taking down the rod. 

"No, we thought of doing a bit of crosscut sawing for 
a change." 

"Not the incinerator?" I hinted with a glance at Julia. 

"Ah yes, I'd forgotten about the incinerator," he ex- 
claimed. "Which shall we do, Julia ? Walk on to the black- 
smith's or do the sawing? The sawing I think; it'll take 
some time to cut the rods, and we can send a lad with the 
sizes and fetch them after lunch. Do the boys come to 
bathe on Saturdays, George?" 

"They do," I said with another glance at her. 

I saw the little mutinous dip of the corners of her mouth. 

I am not going to take you in detail through the whole 
of that day. For half the afternoon they disappeared ; they 
had gone for a walk in the neighbouring woods; but they 
were back in time for the bathing-parade. Again Derry 
swam, with the boys, while I lay with Julia in the punt. 

We occupied opposite ends of it, and hardly spoke. The 
commotion made by the swimmers was almost spent by 
the time it reached our end of the pond, and we moved 
almost imperceptibly under the oaks, with now a soft touch 
on the bank, then a little way out, and then the glide 
to the bank again. A sort of amicable hostility seemed 
to have settled between us. It seemed to be understood 
that she would do what she would do, and I should prevent 
it if I could. I could see the soles of her walking-shoes 
and her worsted-clad ankles as I lay, and I mused on the 
contrasts in her. She was ready to be off with him any- 
where, anyhow; but the evening before she had been glad 
of a glass of hot milk and a fire to warm her hands at. 
She might, as she said, be a good walker, but she had drawn 
my sister's shawl closely enough about her shoulders to 
keep out the night air. She was a young forty, yet some- 
how hardly young enough to traipse houseless after him 



156 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

wherever his whim might lead him. She was not alto- 
gether irresponsible, and yet she contemplated "the least 
serious marriage there ever was." 

The punt rocked as she suddenly sat half up. "Are you 
asleep, George?" 

"No." 

"I nearly was. I can't imagine why you ever come to 
London when you've a place like this to bask in. How do 
you manage to get any work done?" 

"I can't say I am doing a great deal at present." 

"Now that's the first inhospitable thing you've said. 
Which is your study the end room there?" She glanced 
up at the balcony. 

"Yes." 

"Don't you ever sleep out?" 

"No. My room's at the back, and it's two wide-open 
windows." 

"I love the ramblers up the pillars ! May I have some to 
take back?" 

"Mais naturelletnent" 

"Ah, but you can't stay that like Deny, George " 

"I can't do anything like Derry. On the whole I'm not 
sure that I want to." 

"You don't believe that sometimes one single hour may 
be worth all the rest of life put together?" 

"I suppose I'm the other kind of man." 

"Ah well!" She stretched herself luxuriously. "I used 
to think as you do. But I've learned a lot since then. An 
awful lot." 

" 'Awful's' perhaps the word." 

"But lovely. Anyway who cares ? What does it matter? 
What does anything matter? (Oh, look at his dive!) Noth- 
ing matters, George nothing. I dare you to say it does." 

"It might be difficult to run the world on those lines." 

"Oh, I don't know. It's in a pretty ghastly muddle as 
it is. Do you know, I've made a discovery about that, 
George." 

"Really?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 157 

"It's this: That we make the mistake of regarding the 
world as full of rational people, with perhaps a few par- 
ticularly stupid ones here and there. Now if you'll only 
regard it as full of perfect zenies, with just once in a while 
a reasonable being among them, that would explain every- 
thing." 

"You'd better go to sleep again, Julia." 

"But it is so. I see it, oh so clearly! And you don't 
worry about anything then what anybody thinks or says 
or does or anything. You just take the funny old peepshow 
as it is. That's the way to live." 

"On an endless walking-tour?" 

"Why not, if you're in jolly places all the time?" 

"Siena? Nimes? Trieste?" 

"Literal George! . . . But really, nothing matters. 
Everything except the present moment is meant to be for- 
gotten. It's the only one you live in. In the past you're 
dead and in the future you aren't born yet except him. 
. . . George " 

"Hm?" 

"Girls nowadays do have an awfully easy time! . . . 
You've only got to look at their clothes. We dressed down to 
our toes and up to our ears, and that meant we had to take a 
good deal of trouble about things. We had to make a little 
go a long way, so to speak talk, and smile, and be amusing, 
and think what we said. If we didn't we were soon left 
out in the cold. But girls nowadays simply powder their 
shoulder blades and dress to their knees more or less, and 
that's all. Lots of 'em never open -their mouths except to 
eat. They don't do anything; they get there by wwdoing 
something. . . . But how boring for you, George. What 
does it matter as long as you do get there?" 

"I hope you'll think twice before you commit a very 
great folly," I said. 

She laughed. "No, no. I've finished thinking. It was 
one of my mother's maxims: Take care of your health 
and don't ever give way to serious thinking/ Don't you 
think it's rather good?" 



158 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"I agree as far as your health's concerned." 

"Oh, the other too. She was a wise woman. I've only 
lately begun to realise how wise. . . . Ah, they're going 
in. Come along." 

She stood up in the punt to see whether Derry appeared 
on the balcony on his way to dress. 

At teatime I had a caller, a gentle old friend and neighbour 
of mine, Mrs Truscott. I saw her old-fashioned victoria 
standing in the drive as we reached the terrace. Derry 
was charming to the old lady; Julia also charming, but 
with some subtle difference that I cannot explain. After 
tea Derry and Julia strolled off to see whether the rods 
had come from the blacksmith's yet, but they stopped to 
examine the victoria on the way. Mrs Truscott turned to 
me. 

"What an exceedingly handsome man! But surely she's 
a good deal older than he ?" 

"Why do you couple them like that?" I asked. 

"Aren't they engaged?" 

"No." 

She smiled. "Not yet?" 

"Nor likely to be," I risked. 

She shook her head, so that her grey curls trembled 
about her cheeks. 

"Ah, you bachelors, Sir George ! All sorts of things hap- 
pen under your noses that you don't see !" 

"I don't think anything's happening here. They've simply 
been friends since they were boy and girl together." 

"That's a handicap, I admit," she replied. "Perhaps the 
worst a woman has to put up with. But occasionally things 
happen in spite of it." 

"I really think you're mistaken this time, Mrs Truscott." 

"Well, well, well, well. . . . And are you writing us an- 
other of your charming books?" 

It passed at that, but it left me with an uneasy feeling. 
These old ladies are so very acute. 

Nothing remarkable happened at dinner, except a curi- 
ous little covert duel between Julia and myself when I 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 159 

once more tried to draw out Derry to talk about his book. 
I am afraid that she won and I failed. Good-temperedly 
but flatly he refused to discuss it; he wanted to look at 
my Hogarths instead. So I drew the large folio-stand up 
in front of the drawing-room fire, arranged the lights and 
we turned over the prints. He seemed very much less 
drowsy; indeed it was half-past nine before he spoke of 
going to bed; and as in the country that is not an unrea- 
sonably early hour, and since moreover Julia had sat up 
late the night before, I was not surprised when she also 
said that she would retire early. He went first, but she was 
not long after him. I was therefore left either to sit over 
my fire alone, or to follow them, which ever I liked best. 

I went my nightly round, of window-fastenings and so 
forth; for although Mrs Moxon has always been round 
before me, it is my house, and there would be small satisfac- 
tion in scolding her were anything to happen. As a matter 
of fact I had that night to reopen the side door, for it had 
occurred to me that the driver of Mrs Truscott's victoria, 
who was almost as old as herself, had the bad habit of leav- 
ing the drive-gate open. Accordingly I walked up the drive, 
saw that the gate was properly fastened, and then stood for 
a moment enjoying the cool air. 

It was a full and late-rising moon, and only the faintest 
hint of yellow yet lighted the trunks of the plantation be- 
hind the house. The overflow from the lake, which I never 
heard in the daytime, sounded loudly. The evening star had 
set; the others were exceedingly tiny, pale and remote; in 
another hour or so they would be almost extinguished in the 
moon's effulgence. A glow-worm burned stilly, lighting up 
the whole leaf as a ship's sidelight lights up its painted box. 
Through a gleam from the house a bat flickered. I stood 
for several minutes ; then I turned, went in, locked up, and 
ascended to my bedroom. 

This room, I should explain, is at the back of the house 
and does not overlook the pond. This is in some ways a 
drawback, but it has its advantages. By foregoing the 
amenity of sleeping in one of the rooms with the pleasantest 



160 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

view I was able to have a practically self-contained suite all 
to myself study in front, and dressing-room, bathroom and 
bedroom all communicating. My books alone run into all 
three rooms, and are thus kept together ; and the rest of the 
upper floor is left for my guests and servants. Derry's room 
was the one next to my study. Julia's, like my own, was at 
the back. I had put her there partly because of the second 
bathroom, and partly because Mrs Moxon would be within 
call had she need of anything. 

All was quiet as I entered the room. I switched on my 
bedside light, undressed, and got into bed. But I was not 
very sleepy, so I got out again, reached down a book at ran- 
dom, punched my pillow into position and began to read. 

I was not very lucky in my book, however, and my atten- 
tion wandered. From wondering what was wrong with my 
author I passed away from him altogether, and presently 
found myself spinning, as it were, fantasias on life in 
human terms. And as I continued to do this these fantasias 
began to accrete more and more about the figure of Derwent 
Rose. 

What a history had unfolded since that afternoon when 
I had found him in the Lyonnesse Club, gazing at his image 
in the glass of a framed print on the wall ! Hitherto I had. 
contemplated that unfolding only a portion at a time. I had 
typified him as it were in terms o>f his books, had seen the 
man who had written The Hands of Esau give way to him 
who had written An Ape in Hell, and this one in turn to the 
author of The Vicarage of Bray. I had taken him phase by 
phase; I was not yet sure of a single unit of the repeating- 
pattern of his backward life. But these books were not 
merely his three principal books. They were his only books 
of any importance. All prior to the Vicarage had been ex- 
perimental, fragmentary, partial as indeed all he had ever 
done was fragmentary and partial by the side of the huge 
and desperate work he now contemplated. Therefore we 
were at the end of measurement by books. The rest was 
in Julia Oliphant's possession. She was now his sole au- 
thentic companion, and soon she would have shouldered even 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 161 

me completely out of his life, and would go forward back- 
ward with him alone. 

My thoughts passed to her. What a history for her too 
since that afternoon when I had taken her hands in mine, 
had asked her a question, and had had her matter-of-fact 
reply, "Of course; all my life; but it never made any differ- 
ence to him." Now it was to make a difference to him. 
Though he presently eluded her never so swiftly down the 
slippery years, she had come to the conclusion that it was 
worth it. And, for a few weeks, a few hours yet, I had to 
admit that they were not ill-matched. 'Mrs Truscott had 
thought that she was older than he, but had none the less 
assumed them to be lovers. He, of course, had sunk into a 
vast of sleep an hour ago, but I wondered whether she was 
at that moment lying awake, scheming, contriving, making 
sure. . . . 

Then, tired of thought, I switched off my lamp and closed 
my eyes. 

The rather secluded situation of my house has its reaction 
on the quality of my sleep. I don't mean that I don't ordi- 
narily sleep perfectly soundly and naturally, but the routine 
of locking up for the night sets, as it were, a timepiece in my 
head. The running of the lake, the night-sounds of animals 
and birds, the creaking of a bough, the motion of a window- 
blind in the wind these are every-night sounds to which I 
have grown accustomed ; but any unusual sound will bring 
me wide awake in a moment. Robbery in the neighbour- 
hood is not entirely unknown. 

I had slept for perhaps a couple of hours when I was thus 
brought suddenly awake. 

The moon was high over the plantation ; it slanted whitely 
across my window-sash, cut into relief the folds of the case- 
ment curtains. Outside the night creatures would be at play 
or about their nocturnal employments. But it was no owl 
nor rabbit that I had heard. It had been the light crackling 
of something under a foot. I sat up, still, listening. 

I heard nothing further, and after a minute noiselessly 
uncovered myself and slipped out of bed. All the doors 



162 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

of my little suite stood open, so that I had no handle to 
turn as I tiptoed from my bedroom into the dressing-room. 
Thence I could look through the study to the balcony be- 
yond. The night was palely brilliant; my eyes could pene- 
trate into the detailed depths of the oaks across the pond; 
I could see the pebbles on the path, the shadow of a chim- 
ney-stack over the bathing-stage. The balcony itself, how- 
ever, was a blackness. On that side of the house a marauder 
could easily hide. 

I went back to the dressing-room, took down a dark-col- 
oured gown, put it on, and returned through the study. If 
anybody was lurking about I wished to be inconspicuous. 
I reached my writing-table and was about to step outside 
when again I heard the sound. It came, not from below, 
but from the balcony itself. 

My study doors are so arranged that I can either hook 
them half back, at an angle of forty-five, or entirely so, flush 
against the walls. That night they stood at their fullest 
width, so that, if anybody was on the verandah, I had not to 
risk discovering myself as it were obliquely. I advanced to 
the hinged edge and peered cautiously forth. 

Derry was not asleep. He was moving irresolutely, now 
a few steps this way, now a few steps that, at the farther end 
of the balcony, and the noise I had heard had been the crack- 
ing of a fir-cone or fragment of bark under his feet. His 
hair was tumbled, he had put on his old tweed jacket, but 
the pyjama-suit I had lent him was small for him, and his 
bare ankles showed above his heelless slippers. There was 
no light in his room, and I suddenly remembered that that 
evening he had not shown his usual anxiety to be off early 
upstairs. 

After those immensities of sleep, was he now suffering 
from insomnia? 

I was about to step out to him when something within me, 
I really can't tell you what, drew me swiftly back again. 
The room past Berry's, opposite which he now stood, was 
unoccupied, and its windows were closed except for the little 
doors in the upper panes. But somebody was undoing a 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 163 

fastening. I had seen the turn of Berry's head towards me, 
and had withdrawn my own head only just in time. The 
sound of unfastening continued. 

I think already I knew what I was going to see. By cross- 
ing the corridor Julia could enter that unoccupied room, 
pass through it, and gain the balcony. Indeed (I struggled 
to persuade myself) were she sleepless and in need of air 
there was no reason why she shouldn't. But I knew that 
I mocked myself. I knew that not sleeplessness had brought 
her out. Almost, I thought, they must hear the thumping 
of my heart. I wondered whether I dared look again. 

I dared not yet I had to 

She had cast over her the Burberry she had brought out 
for the single day. She left the bedroom door open behind 
her and stood with her pale hand on the edge of it, not 
advancing. Slowly his head lifted. His eyes met hers. I 
think I could have stepped bodily out and he would not have 
seen me for the look he gave her. It was hard, fixed, 
tranced. Still she did not move. All her life she had 
waited for him ; it was proper now that he should come to 
her. 

Very slowly he lifted his hands 

Already I had turned away. 

For I had heard the little flutter of her garments, the rush 
and catch of her breath 

Grim King of the Ghosts ! 

She was in his arms. 



IV 

The next morning I did not hear his plunge into the lake. 
This was not because I was not back in my own house in 
time. 

For I had not remained in it. I had dressed, had crept 
softly downstairs, and had let myself out, easing the catch 
of the side-door behind me. I had walked to Hindhead, and 
from the edge of the Punch Bowl had seen the night end 



164 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

and the day begin. I had watched the cloudlets kindle like 
plumes of the wings of cherubim, ineffable, indifferent, an- 
guishing in that the eye and heart ached and fainted for 
more than they could endure, gazed and yet saw not because 
of their own overbrimming. I had turned away, weary of 
the heavenly thing, yet had returned with tears for more of 
it. I had cast myself down with my face hidden in the wet 
earth. I had tried not to think or feel. Had it been possible 
I would have been, not a few miles, but a few worlds away. 
And in sober fact I am not sure that I was not worlds away. 
In the thing that had happened time, distance, had no mean- 
ing. Nothing so mystic in its very nature can be merely a 
little in error; once it is not right, it is wrong with an un- 
imaginable totality. Ordinary measurement is annihilated; 
in the very instant of identity the last conceivable differences 
are wrapped up together as in the vital element of a seed. I 
am sorry I cannot make this plainer. You either see what 
had happened or you don't. It beat and bludgeoned my 
spirit as I lay there, sometimes quivering, sometimes still, 
while the sun had risen over the Devil's Punch Bowl. 

On my return to the house Mrs Moxon met me. She is an 
efficient creature, but a little given to impressionistic fancies, 
and there was perplexity in her face as I entered by the way 
I had left the side door. 

"The gentleman and lady don't seem to be having any 
breakfast, sir," she said. 

"Why not?" 

"I'm sure I can't tell you, sir. 'Mr Mr Rose asked where 
you were, and then said perhaps I'd better keep breakfast 
back/' 

"Where are Mr Rose and Miss Oliphant now ?" 

"They went off that way, sir." She nodded in the direc- 
tion of the kitchen-garden. 

"Then I'll see about it. Have breakfast ready in ten min- 
utes, please." 

The kitchen-garden is not very large, but it is a straggling 
sort of place, being, in fact, the oddments of ground left 
over when the tennis-court was made. I looked for my 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 165 

guests among the dewy canes, but did not see them; they 
were not behind the sweet-pea hedge that made my lungs 
open of themselves to receive its fragrance. But they had 
been there, for I saw that the roller on the court had been 
moved. Its barrel was wet all round with dew, and the 
patch of grass where it had stood during the night was 
dry. 

Then, just as I was on the point -of calling their names, 
they appeared from behind the tall artichoke brake. 

I spoke first, ignoring what Mrs Moxon had told me. 

"Good morning," I called. "Breakfast is just ready. I'm 
sorry to have kept you waiting. Come along." 

It was Derry who answered, advancing across the court 
towards me. 

"Ah, there you are. I've been looking for you. I wanted 
to thank you and say good-bye. I'm afraid I've got to be 
pushing along." 

I acted my part as well as I could. "Pushing along! 
What are you talking about ? What train are you going by ? 
This is Sunday. Come along in to breakfast." 

"Oh, I'd a cup of tea and a biscuit in my room, thanks," 
he said hesitatingly. "I know it's springing it on you rather 
suddenly, George, but I really must be getting along." 

"What's all this about? Your book?" I demanded. 

"Yes, the book. Yes, the book, George." 

"But I tell you it's Sunday. There the twelve-forty-six 
and the four-fifty. You've missed the eight-fifty-five." 

"I thought of walking," he said. 

"All the way to London ? That would take you two days. 
So it isn't your book after all." 

"Oh, I meant part of the way," he evaded, fidgeting. 
"Guildford or Weybridge or somewhere." 

"And is Julia going to walk to Guildford or Weybridge 
too ? Don't be absurd. Come along to breakfast." 

Reluctantly he turned his face towards the house. 

I say I acted as well as I could ; but it was acting. I had 
to act because I was afraid to face the reality. His haste to 
be off seemed to make that reality a twofold possibility. In 



166 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

the highly peculiar circumstances it was not for me, his host, 
to inquire whether he scrupled to breakfast or sit down in 
my house; but it was for me, technically still his friend, to 
wonder why he had tried to put me off with some tale about 
wanting to get on with his book and, in his eagerness to be 
gone, proposed to walk to London. It might have been 
decency and delicacy. On the other hand, he now experi- 
enced everything with the greatest intensity, and this sudden 
and imperious urge to walk might have been the first faint 
thrilling of that communicating nerve that, traced back, led ' 
to his Wander jahre. 

At Julia I had not yet dared to look. 

I made him eat whether he wished it or not ; oh, I was not 
above using my advantage. For he was entirely unaware 
that the cracking of a fir-cone under his foot had brought 
me out of my bed and to the door of my study. It was be- 
cause he supposed me to have been soundly asleep all night 
that I was able to compel him to swallow his punctiliousness 
at the same time that he swallowed his trout, coffee and 
marmalade. If either or all of them stuck in his throat there 
was no remedy for that. ... At least so at first I thought. 
But as breakfast proceeded, I began to be strangely aware 
of my complete helplessness. Much as I might wish it, I 
could not wash my hands of him. Once more, the choice 
was not mine, but his. 

For what could I do with him ? Nothing nothing at all. 
I was bound hand and foot. You cannot turn a two-mem- 
oried man out of your house as you can another. You don't 
get rid of him if you do. He has his own ubiquity. There 
is only one of him, and you never know where he isn't. It 
was not now a question of whether he should marry Julia 
Oliphant, but whether he was to be suffered to vanish, to 
be swallowed up in the world of men, a drop in the human 
ocean that did not merge but still remained a drop, a grain 
on humanity's shore yet numbered too, an anomaly, a con- 
tradiction in nature, a ghost in the flesh, a man among ghosts. 
For if he was a ghost to us we must be ghosts to him. And 
ghost does not bring ghost to book for reasons of the flesh. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 167 

No, he was still Derry, on whom this enormous destiny had 
alighted. He was not to be judged. 

Nevertheless he must settle his soul's affairs and eat his 
breakfast like anybody else. 

We got through that meal somehow. Julia talked to 
Derry, and I suppose I also was included, but I have no 
memory of what it was all about. One vivid little incident,' 
however, I do remember. I learned why the heavy roller 
on the tennis court had been moved. She had asked Derry 
whether he could lift it, and for answer he had picked it up 
and held it above his head, as once he had held her sewing- 
machine. So she had gloried in him. . . . But of the rest 
of the conversation I remember nothing. Breakfast over, I 
excused myself and left them at the table together. It had 
occurred to me that I was still as I had returned from the 
Devil's Punch Bowl, and that I had neither shaved nor 
bathed. 

But on my way to my room Mrs Moxon again met me. 
She was replacing flowers, and she carried a pail of withered 
ones in her hand. 

"I beg pardon, sir, but may I ask if you got up in the 
night?" she asked. 

"Yes," I answered. "Why?" 

"Only that I fancied I heard somebody moving about/' 
she said. 

"Yes. I went into Mr Rose's room. Then I went out for 
a walk. I'm not sleeping very well, Mrs Moxon. To-night 
I shall take a draught." 

She knows my tone. I hope she was satisfied. I passed 
on to my dressing-room. 

Three quarters of an hour later I came down again. I 
found Julia at one of the drawing-room windows, alone and 
gazing out over the pond. She started at the sound of my 
voice behind her. 

"Where's Derry?" I had asked. 

"Over there by the punt," she replied. 

I had not noticed him as he had stooped behind the little 
shelter to untie it. 



i68 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Is he leaving to-day?" 

"I don't know." 

"Are you trying to keep him ?" 

She had turned her back on me again and was once more 
looking out of the window. "Of course I'm trying to keep 
him so far as I may in somebody else's house." 

"Oh. . . . Why 'of course?'" 

"Of course it's of course. Do you think I'm going to take 
my eyes off him for a single moment ? You heard what he 
said before breakfast." 

"About walking to London as the quickest way of getting 
back to that book of his ?" 

She did not answer. Derry had moved, and her eyes had 
instantly moved with him. 

"Why is he putting out by himself? Why aren't you 
with him?" I asked. 

"Oh as long as I know where he is " 

"Didn't he ask you to join him?" 

"No." 

"The first time for two days ?" 

No reply. 

"I wonder why he didn't ask you ?" 

"I wonder," she repeated. 

"Have you no idea ?" 

With that she suddenly confronted me. She stood with 
her hands on either side of the window-frame, dark against 
the morning light. She looked straight into my eyes. 

"Isn't this rather a catechism, George?" she said. "Your 
tone too. I want you to tell me something. It's this ; Are 
these really the questions you're wanting to ask me ?" 

She said it with the proudest calm; but whatever it was 
that existed between us made me for some moments longer 
as calm as herself. 

"I do want to know those things. Otherwise I shouldn't 
have asked you." 

"Oh, I'm afraid I said it badly. That's not what I meant. 
I mean are those the only questions you want to ask me ?" 

The moment she said it I was much less certain that they 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 169 

were not. Her next words plunged me still deeper into 
doubt. She spoke as it were direct from the heart of some 
uttermost complexity. 

"What is the relation between you and me, George?" she 
demanded. 

I considered, my eyes downcast. I felt hers steadily on 
my face all the time. I spoke in a low voice. 

"I'm beginning to know less than ever." 

"You'd hardly call it ordinary, would you conventional 
and so on?" 

"That's quite the last word I should use." 

"It's not ordinary because of an extraordinary element 
that's at the very root of it. You know what that is ; it's" 
her eyes went towards the punt "it's all him. He's got us 
all on the run. Give him his head and he could have the 
whole world on the run. There's no reason about it; as 
many people as knew about him would simply be bewitched. 
So I've taken it for granted that we don't quite come under 
everyday rules. We have to break and make rules as we go 
along. . . . About those questions. They really are all that 
you want to know just what he'll do next and so on?" she 
challenged me. 

I think I should have broken in on the spot with a "Yes 
I want to know nothing else nothing at all !" But she gave 
me no time. Her eyes called my own downcast ones per- 
emptorily up from the floor. 

"Because," she said, with the utmost distinctness in the 
shaping of each syllable, "I notice that since breakfast you've 
shaved, George. You've also changed your clothes. One 
does not usually change one's clothes immediately after 
breakfast. I suppose Mrs 'Moxon is brushing the others. 
They needed brushing. They had bits of dried grass 
and heather on them. . . . George George dear thank 
you " 

I spoke in little more than a whisper. "For going out?" 

"Oh no. For only thinking of it for only thinking of it. 
But you would think of it ; I always knew you'd be like that. 
. . . Now ask me anything you like, Anything you like. 



i;o THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Only don't ask Derry. It made" for an instant only there 
was the slightest tremor in her voice "it made no difference 
to him." 

What, as she had said, was our relation? Had he "got 
us going"? Had he subdued all our standards to his own 
standardlessness ? Had he withdrawn some linchpin of 
ordinary conduct from the wheel on which the whole 
world revolves? I didn't know. I don't know now. The 
more I think of it the less I know. I only know what I did. 
Her affairs were her affairs, and I have ado enough to look 
after my own. I took one of her cool hands in mine, bowed 
as low over it as if she had been a queen, and kissed it. 

Her other hand rested lightly for a moment on my head 
as I did so. 

"And now," she resumed in her ordinary tones, "about 
him." 

He was sitting alone in the punt, some forty yards away, 
gazing straight before him. He had ceased to paddle, the 
water had ceased to drip from his resting blade. It accen- 
tuated his isolation that for two whole days he had hardly 
left her side. Restlessness and impatience plainly possessed 
him. He was straining to be off. It would not have sur- 
prised me to see him suddenly thrust the paddle in, swirl 
across the lake, tie up the punt, walk straight up to me, hold 
out his hand, and say, "George, old man, it's no good I've 
got to go this moment." I turned to Julia. 

"If he leaves shall you go with him?" I asked. 

"Leaves here? This house? To-day?" 

"I didn't mean that." 

"You mean if he buckles on his knapsack again?" 

"If that's the next stage." 

"I'm afraid to think." 

"Then you do think he might just go off?" 

She sighed a little. "I suppose it has to be faced." 

"And in that case would you go with him ?" 

She started nervously. He had put in the paddle. But 
he only gave a couple of strokes, and withdrew it again. 
Her voice was low. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 171 

"I would, of course. To the end of the world. But that's 
the whole point. He never wanted me. He doesn't want 
me now. He won't want me then." 

I saw only too plainly. Naturally he would not want her. 
It was the very essence of his wandering that he should be 
unhampered and alone. That which she now had she had; 
but it seemed to me that it was all she would ever have. 
She had thrown, and won? Lost? Which? That was 
for her to say. Had she remained content as she was she 
might have kept him on the original terms in perpetuity; 
but it looked as if in precipitating the event she had en- 
compassed her own defeat. Her eyes were now on him as 
if they would never see him again. 

"Shall we go across to him?" I said. 

She shook her head. "Don't worry him. There's no 
stopping it. He's bound to go. There, I didn't want to say 
it, but it's better to face it. He's righting with the Wander- 
lust now. And if he goes it isn't the end. There are stages 
beyond that, and there's no stopping them either. He'll 
come back in the end." 

"Then you'll let him go?" 

"He shall do whatever he wishes. It mayn't be for long." 

"How many Wander jahre had he?" 

"Two three I don't quite remember. But that may 
not mean more than a week or a fortnight really." 

"And he'll comeback?" 

"He'll come back, or we can go to him. Probably he 
won't be able to get very far. Anyway nothing on earth can 
stop it, so there's no more to be said." 

I looked at her fixedly, earnestly. "But there is more to 
be said. What about yourself ?" I said quietly. 

For a moment her eyes left that man in the punt who 
fidgeted to feel the stick in his hand again, the pack on his 
back and the hard road under his feet. They smiled dimly 
into mine. 

"Oh, I'm a painter. There'll be that portrait of yours 
to start presently, George." 

And back went the eyes to the motionless figure in the punt. 



I 7 2 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

V 

Derry stayed to lunch without further pressing. He had 
made his book his excuse; that brushed aside, he had no 
choice but to stay or give his reason for not staying. So, 
as a man who is starting on a walking-tour of indefinite 
duration can hardly boggle at an hour or two sooner or 
later in the starting, and as, moreover, having brought Julia, 
he must in ordinary politeness take her back again, he stayed. 

But lunch was nearly as extraordinary as breakfast had 
been. Once more he tried to urge his book, and again failed. 
And I remembered how formerly, in Cambridge Circus, his 
very thought and essence had been modified in my presence, 
awaiting only sleep to put the visible and physical seal upon 
it. It needed only half an eye to see that he no longer had 
the least interest in that book. The more he urged it, the 
more plainly it became a thing of the past. Vivaciously, yet 
as if repeating them from memory, he said things he had said 
twice and thrice before; echoes, mere echoes. . . . And 
then suddenly he ceased to talk about his book. He wanted 
a change, he said ; wanted to get away somewhere ; and this 
rang instantly true. I fancied he even became a little cun- 
ning. "Do you know, George, I've never in my life been in 
Ireland?" he said. "Only an hour or two away, and I've 
never been ! Lord, how we do sit still in one place ! I feel 
positively ashamed. We settle down get sitzfleich heav- 
ens, I do want a change!" . . . And somehow I knew that 
he was dragging in Ireland as a red-herring. He had no 
intention of going there. That was purely for our benefit. 
He not only wanted to go away alone, but he did not wish 
to have his whereabouts known. Only a few hours before 
he had made much of Julia and myself, as his only rest and 
comfort in that wavering ebb of his life ; now he no longer 
did not need, but very definitely did not want companionship. 
And he threw dust in our eyes. Yes, just a little cunning. 
I made a note of it. 

I have said that the afternoon train to town was at four- 
forty. There was not another till seven-eighteen, reaching 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 173 

Waterloo at eight- forty-one. There was little doubt which 
of the two he would choose. As we all three took a stroll 
backwards and forwards after lunch he turned to Julia. 

"Will the four-forty suit you all right ?" he asked. 

She only nodded. 

"Right. And I say : would you mind if when we got to 
town I put you on your bus at Waterloo and left you? 
There's a little job I must do." 

"Very well, Derry," she said. 

"And now, George, if you could spare me just a mo- 
ment ," this time he turned to me. 

Julia walked rather quickly away. 

The "little job" of which he had spoken was this : 

He wanted me quite at my own convenience, of course, 
and whenever I next happened to be in town to arrange 
for the sale of his things at Cambridge Circus. To attend 
to this himself might be to ask for trouble. So I was to sell 
everything for what it would fetch and remit the money to 
him. 

"Where?" I asked him. ("Ireland?" I thought.) 

"I shall have to let you know that later," he replied. "I 
want to sell the lot and pay all up there ; chairs and curtains 
are no good to a man like me. I don't suppose I shall ever 
want 'em again. I shall have to settle up with Trenchard 
too, and money's as well in your pocket as anywhere else." 

"Will you have some now to be going on with ?" 

"No, that's quite all right. I have all I want for the pres- 
ent, if you wouldn't mind doing this other for me. Thanks, 
old fellow." 

"Is it to Cambridge Circus that you're going to-night 
when you leave Julia ?" I asked. 

"Yes. There are one or two small things I want, and 
also a few things I think I'd better destroy." 

"Couldn't you," I said slowly and quite deliberately, "have 
taken her home and seen about your things to-morrow ?" 

I felt the beginning of his perturbation. "It's so dashed 
awkward, George," he stammered. "I don't want .to go in 
;the daytime^" 



174 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Couldn't you go to-morrow night and still take her 
home?" 

Again he muttered, his eyes on the ground. "Why waste 
a day?" 

"If, as you say, you want a change supposing you were 
to go off somewhere for a bit wouldn't you like somebody 
with you ?" 

"No, George," he answered curtly. 

"You are going away?" 

"Yes," he admitted. 

"Immediately?" 

"Yes." 

"Whereto?" 

"I don't know yet." 

"Would you let me come with you ?" 

"No." 

"Would you, if it were possible, take Julia?" 

"No." 

"Might both of us come with you together?" 

"No." And, raising his voice, "No, I tell you, no!" he 
said. 

We had stopped by a rather shabby-looking thicket of 
rugosa roses near the diving-stage. The pink-flowered hedge 
hid us from the house. I spoke quietly, not to give my own 
agitation too much head. 

"Derry," I said, "you remember what you showed me 
with that flashlight that night in your rooms ?" 

With marked reluctance he answered, "Yes I do." 

"I've been thinking about that. I've been thinking a lot 
about it. Of course it makes a considerable difference how 
far away you hold the lamp." 

"A hell of a difference," he muttered. 

"Do you always hold it at the same distance?" 

His whole mind seemed to wriggle. "I haven't, if you 
must know. But why drag all this up again ? I offered to 
tell you before but you wouldn't listen." 

"I hadn't the reason then that I have now. Do you 
move it about deliberately?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 175 

"I have to some extent. I told you that. I did by an 
effort of will when I came here for a day's rest." 

"A day's rest? . . . You're not going back to that book. 
You know that better than I do. That book's all past and 
done with. Something's happened since." 

I saw him turn pale. "What do you mean?" he asked 
almost inaudibly. 

"You came here on Friday midday. I've watched you 
carefully ever since. Let's well, let's stick to terms of the 
flash-lamp. Except for a quarter of an hour or so at break- 
fast yesterday morning, when you talked about your book, 
you've had that lamp steadily rather close to the edge of the 
table. Isn't that so?" 

"I tell you a holiday's a holiday," he said faintly. 

"Let me go on. I want to know how close that lamp has 
been. The closer you hold it the more ecstatically you ex- 
perience, you know. Very well. Now has there been a 
moment since yesterday when . . . you've held it as close as 
you could get it?" 

I was in time to catch him as he swayed. He clutched at 
my shoulder. 

"George " 

"Steady but tell me " 

"George I've been trying to remember " 

"What! Good God! You don't remem so close that 
you don't remember?" 

"I honestly but no, that isn't true I seem to remember 
something let me think, let me think. . . . What time did 
I go to bed last night ?" 

"Later than usual. Not till half-past nine." 

"What was I doing? Tell me what I was doing. I was 
looking at pictures or something, wasn't I ?" 

"You were looking at the Hogarth prints." 

"Yes, yes, that's right. ... I didn't fall asleep, did I?" 

"No, you didn't." 

He muttered thickly. Outrageous, extravagant, beyond 
reason as it was, his sincerity could not be doubted. "It 
made no difference to him," Julia had said ; but that her 



176 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

words should be taken au pied de la lettre like that! . . . 
He continued to mutter. 

"I do remember something I do remember at least I 
did this morning I thought I did but it went. Why didn't 
I come into breakfast ? Why was I going away without any 
breakfast? Why wouldn't I have breakfast, George? I'm 
sure there was a reason, but I can't for the life of me re- 
member." Then he began to talk rapidly. "That lamp 
very close, you say touching something all instantaneous 
and burning one intense brilliant spot no before or after 
all isolated by itself but I'll swear I didn't fake the lamp 
that time! By all that's sacred I swear it, George! Some- 
thing happened in the night that had nothing to do with me 
at all ! It all happens in the night. Why" he flung out his 
arms in a perfectly amazing appeal "if I'd moved the light 
at all it would have been farther away! I wanted to do 
that book! I thought about nothing else from the moment 
I went upstairs! I ached to be at it wished this wasted 
week-end was over I saw it all again perfectly clearly, 
beautifully clearly! I'd got out of bed. And then . . . 
everything went out. It was exactly as if somebody'd taken 
that torch out of my hand, somebody with a stronger will 
than mine, and concentrated it in the very moment when 
I saw that book practically written one bright blazing 
bull's-eye " 

There was a little bench about four yards away. I think 
I needed its support more than he. Together we reached 
it and sat down. He turned the beautiful grey-blue eyes 
on me. 

"George," he said more quietly, "something happened. 
I know it did." 

I made no reply. 

"Something happened. Something's been done to me. 
Somebody's been taking a hand in my life. At breakfast- 
time I almost knew what it was. Do you know what it 
was?" 

There was only one possible answer ,to this. I ma4e .it 
,in a broken vpipg- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"No, old man, I don't." 

"Except of course that I've slipped back again." 

"Except that, I suppose." 

He passed his hand wearily over his brow> and, much as I 
hated that insolent vainglorious book of his, the gesture with 
which he wiped it away went strangely to my heart. 

"Then what's that make the year now ? 1903 or 4 I sup- 
pose ; all blind guessing though ; how can you tell your age 
to a year or two simply by how you feel? . . . But that 
would be about it. I was in the Adriatic in 1903 ; Venice, 
and across to Genoa and Marseilles. I'd been in Marseilles 
a few years before and thought I'd like another look at it. 
Gay place. There was a little cafe on the Vieux Port with 
a little stage where a woman used to dance. Andalusian; 
very dark-eyed ; pretty sort of wild animal. She had a little 
sloping mirror at the top of the stage so she could see who 
was in front when she was behind. Wicked show ; I wasn't 
having any; knives come out too easily there. But of 
course she'd gone when I went again in 1904." 

I made one more appeal. "Derry, can't you stay here a 
little longer?" 

But it had now resumed its possession of him. He was 
almost cheerful again. 

"Sorry, George. It's good of you to ask me, but it's quite 
impossible. Glad Julia was able to take a run down with 
me : she's a rattling good sort. I feel rather beastly about 
shaking her at Waterloo, but I really must get up to Cam- 
bridge Circus to-night. And if you'll see about selling those 
things, George any time will do I've got nearly a hundred 
pounds, so there's really no hurry I'll let you know where 
to send the money to " 

I drove them to the station. As the car turned out of the 
drive Julia's eyes took a last look at my balconied house. 
His spirits were now high ; he was on the eve of a holiday. 
They got into an empty third-class carriage. 

"Well, thanks most awfully, George," he said. 

We waved hands. 



178 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Both their heads were framed in the window as the train 
glided out of the station. 

That night I once more roamed restlessly from room to 
room of my house. The place seemed extraordinarily and 
insistently empty, and I could not have told you whether I 
was glad or sorry for it. For this thing was getting alto- 
gether too much for me. Remember that I am merely a 
commercially successful English novelist, not a person ac- 
customed to the contemplation of the mysteries of life and 
death in terms of electric torches and bamboo tables. Also 
a man of my years does not spend a night at the Devil's 
Punch Bowl without knowing something about it after- 
wards. In this connection, going into my dressing-room, I 
found that after all my suit of clothes had not been brushed. 
I summoned Mrs Moxon and told her to take them away. 
She stiffened a little, and some part of her clothing creaked. 

"It's made a good deal of extra work for the week-end," 
she reminded me. 

"I'm sorry for that, but you were consulted beforehand," 
I said. 

"It was more than I reckoned for," she announced with 
dignity. 

A little of this was enough. 

"Very well, Mrs Moxon. Take the clothes away, please, 
and let me have them to-morrow. By the way, I shall be 
going up to town by the midday train." 

"In that case, sir," she said, "if you're seeing Mr Rose 
perhaps you'd give him this. I suppose it's his. I found it 
in his room." 

She put into my hand a small book covered with shiny 
black cloth. I opened it to see what it was. 

A single glance told me. It was Derwent Rose's diary. 






PARTY 
THE PIVOT 



"George, you haven't brought your Beautiful Bear round 
to see me yet," said Madge Aird. And I jumped a little as 
she added, "By the way, does he happen to have a brother?" 

"No. At least I never heard of one. Why?" 

"I wondered. I've seen somebody most remarkably like 
him, only younger. In this neighbourhood too. I thought 
Nature made him and then lost the recipe, or whatever the 
saying is." 

I assumed a lightness I hardly felt. "Did you 'fall for' 
this other paragon as you did for Mr Rose ?" 

She laughed. "Oh, I don't know. I dare say beauty of 
that sort would be ill to live with. Better a dinner of herbs 
all to yourself than a stalled ox every woman you knew 
would be running after. Or words to that effect. So you 
and Alec needn't be too downhearted. But really he was 
most astonishingly like. Where does Mr Rose live?*' 

"Mr Rose is at present abroad." 

"Oh, I don't mean that it was he! I couldn't make a 
mistake like that I'd far too good a look at him the other 
time, the dazzling creature! But you might find out if the 
family's seriously addicted to monogamy, unless he turns 
out to have a brother after all. Well, when are you coming 
to see us ? Better hurry, as we're off very soon." 

"Where are you going?" 

"Dinard. The three of us. Johnnie's taken a villa. Have 
you settled what you're going to do yet?" 

"Not yet." 

"Then why not come over to us for a few weeks ? When 
yon get tired of me, Jennie's getting most take-about-able. 
She's seventeen. And George " 

"Yes?" 

181 



182 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"When a woman tells you she's got a daughter of seven- 
teen there are quite a number of pretty things to be said " 

We continued to talk and walk aimlessly side by side. I 
had met her in Queen's Gate, and I intended to retrace my 
steps to Queen's Gate the moment I had got rid of her. She 
chattered on. 

"And by the way, has Hastings mentioned Mr Rose to 
you lately?" 

"No. Why?" I said. Hastings is my literary agent, the 
man beside whose labours on my behalf my own seem puny. 

"Because I've got a feeling that this creature of all the 
talents really is coming off this time," she went on. "Hast- 
ings has found a publisher who's going to see that Derwent 
Rose is 'It' or die in the attempt. So if you want to do the 
Bear a good turn send him to Hastings. When is he coming 
back?" 

"I don't quite know." 

"Well, there's no immediate hurry. Everybody'll be away 
in another week or two. But it would be rather joysome to 
see Derwent Rose at last where he really belongs! Well, 
think about Dinard. Any time you like. 'Bye " 

And with a wave of her hand she was off. 

Even when you think you are thoroughly accustomed to 
the idea of a thing it can sometimes come freshly over you; 
and merely in the professional part of me I had felt an 
oddly special little pang at Madge's last words. Here, ap- 
parently, was a publisher who believed in Derwent Rose and 
was prepared to back his belief with money; and it was 
too late! Derwent Rose, wanderer, would never write an- 
other book. A few travel-sketches, perhaps, a few pen-pic- 
tures by the way, a few evening-paper articles ; but another 
book no. I wished that publisher no ill, but I did wish that 
he had recognised Derry's struggles, endeavours, faithful- 
ness, strength, a little sooner than a day after the fair. 
Poor Derry would not have even the cynical consolation that 
while his real books had been neglected money would be 
heaped on him for his bad ones. He no longer had a book 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 183 

left in him. A pugilist's manager would be of more use to 
him than a publisher now. 

I passed up Queen's Gate and turned into the mews where 
I had arranged to meet Trenchard. 

I had made my appointment with him because I had a 
question of special importance to ask him. I wanted to know 
whether Trenchard had seen him immediately before his 
departure, and, if he had, how old he now looked. 

For the farther he travelled the more crucial this question 
became. From forty-five to thirty-five he might still pass 
as Derwent Rose, but he could hardly do so from, say, 
forty-five to twenty. I had not a moment's doubt that it 
had indeed been he whom Madge had seen and had failed 
to recognise nay, had unhesitatingly assumed to be another 
man. Also my housekeeper's suspicions that all was not as 
it should have been had also been thoroughly awakened. 
"It is Mr Rose, isn't it?" she had asked me with a puzzled 
look on the Friday midday; but by Sunday morning Julia 
and he had become "the lady and gentleman" who had had 
to be fetched in to breakfast. Old Mrs Truscott again had 
unhesitatingly set him down as years younger than Julia. 
If Trenchard had seen him before his departure he had 
probably been the last of us to do so. Trenchard, in short, 
was to tell me what Berry's diary had completely failed to 
tell me. 

For that little shiny-backed pocket book had merely 
brought things to a more hideously complicated pass even 
than before. I shall return to this diary in a moment ; for 
the present let it suffice that, like the publisher's offer, it 
seemed to me to have turned up just a few hours too late. 
I had hoped for a survey wide enough, simplified enough, to 
help me to his rate of progress. I had so far found nothing 
of the slightest use whatever. I was without the faintest 
idea of his present age. He might have been thirty, twenty- 
five, twenty, younger. He might even be sixteen, at which 
age he had said he would die. 

Trenchard I found to be a black-haired, pleasant-voiced, 



184 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

very much alive fellow of a little under thirty. His rank, 
I believe, had been that of major, and even the atrocious 
crippling he had received at La Bassee did not destroy his 
look of perfect efficiency. He was just able to start up a 
car, and cars were his livelihood and he lived in them. I 
introduced myself, and he hobbled cheerfully about among 
his cups and bread-and-butter and methylated spirits. 

"So," I concluded my introduction of myself, "as I'm 
settling up a few matters for him I wanted to know how you 
stood." 

"Oh, everything's perfectly all right as far as I'm con- 
cerned," he laughed, filling the teapot. "Place left like a 
new pin, Bradburys in an envelope, and a quite unnecessary 
letter of thanks for what he calls my k ; ndness. I was only 
too glad to have somebody in the place." 

"Do you know what day he left?" 

"Let me see. To-day's the ninth. He left on Monday, 
the fifth." 

(Note: he had cleared out of Trenchard's place the day 
after I had seen him and Julia off at Haslemere Station.) 

"He didn't say where he was going ?" 

He gave me a quick glance. "I say, this is all right, isn't 
it ?" Then, laughing as I smiled, "Sorry, but one has to be 
careful, you know. No, he didn't say. Here's his note if you 
care to read it. I don't even know what to do with letters 
if any come for him." 

Already I guessed that it would be useless to put my ques- 
tion ; but I asked it none the less. 

"You didn't see him before he left, then?" 

"No. He simply left that note. It's dated the evening 
of the fourth, and it says he's off to-morrow. ... By the 
way, what am I to do about letters ?" 

There wouldn't be any letters. Of that I was sure. But I 
gave him my address, wound up a pleasant chat rather 
quickly, and took my leave. 

And now for that diary that, instead of helping me, had 
proved the greatest stumbling-block of all. 

I had had not a moment's scruple in reading every word 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 185 

of it, in trying to disentangle every diagram and equation it 
contained. Any question of ordinary decorum had long 
since passed out of the relation that existed between him, 
Julia, and myself. And let me repeat once more that a man 
who has questioned the universe until he has asked one ques- 
tion too many involves in his own fatality all who have to 
endure the contact of him. His state is apocalyptic, his 
existence merely spatial, without zenith of virtue or nadir of 
disgrace. If my roof had not been abused, neither did I 
violate his diary. I merely read it without a qualm. 

Its oddity began with its very first page. Ordinarily on 
the first page of a diary you look for the owner's name and 
address. Here was no address ; on the other hand there was 
a string of names. There were, to be exact, eight of them, 
with space for more, the whole written in his small fine hand 
and disposed in a neat vertical column. This block of names 
might have been from the everyday-book of any working 
novelist, part of whose task it is to label his puppets ap- 
propriately. I had no reason to suppose that hitherto Der- 
went Rose had ever gone under any name but his own. It 
had certainly occurred to me that he might sooner or later 
have to do so. This appeared to be a preparation for such a 
contingency. His own name of Derwent Rose, .by the way, 
did not appear. 

Opposite the names a diagram had been pasted into the 
book. It was on squared paper, such as draughtsmen use, 
of so many squares to the inch ; and these squares had been 
numbered horizontally along the top with the years from 
1891 to 1920, that is to say from his own age of sixteen on. 
Lower down the page, and still horizontally, red and black 
lines of various lengths were set in echelon. These were 
sprinkled over with numbers, which I discovered to^ refer 
to the pages that followed. Certain arrows pointed in op- 
posite directions. Over these were written, in one direction, 
the words " 'A' memory," in the other the words "'B' 
memory." This completed the horizontal arrangement. 

The vertical set-out appeared to have given him much 
more trouble. It did not appear to have been completed. A 



186 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

heavy black line ruled up through the year 1905 was lettered 
"true middle," but that appeared to be the only stable term 
of its kind. The rest was a mere rain of pencil-lines, mo- 
mentary false middles that apparently he had tried to seize in 
passing. I knew by this time how unseizable they were. 
Not one of them lay on the right side of the true middle 
line. All overstepped it and travelled in a gradual procession 
towards the left of the diagram. 

On other pages I found other diagrams. These were 
merely enlarged details of the foregoing, with days of the 
month instead of years. 

One wild chart was an attempt to combine the whole in a 
single comprehensive statement. But this had completely 
beaten him. A serpentine whip-lash of pencil had been flung 
so viciously across it that one almost heard the crack. 

The rest of the book consisted of text. 

I was of course prepared at any moment to receive a tele- 
gram or letter asking for the book's instant return. If it 
really contained the key to his speed of retrogression it was 
probably the most important thing he had in the world. 
Therefore, lest he should claim it before I had finished with 
it, it stayed in my breast pocket when it was not actually in 
my hand. 

And so I had three days' madness over the hateful thing. 
Twenty times I nearly tore it in two as he had once torn a 
six-shilling novel. Then at the end of the three days I put 
it down, leaned back exhausted in my chair, and asked 
myself what it was that I was really in search of. 

I wonder whether the answer will startle you as much 
as it startled me. True, it came pat enough. There was 
nothing whatever new about it. It was merely what it had 
been all along, and I ought to have been familiar with it by 
this time. ... I merely wanted to know his age. Just that 
and nothing more. 

Yet of all the shocks that a man can receive, the shock 
of the expected and waited-for is sometimes the most pro- 
found. You know it is coming ; it is therefore pure, f unda- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 187 

mental shock, unalleviated by Ihe lighter element we call 
surprise. When something you have lived with every day, 
taken for granted, thought you knew all about, have become 
familiar with to the point of boredom, suddenly so recalls 
attention to itself that all your habitual notions about it drop 
clean away, leaving you face to face with a strange thing 
a line of verse, an object in your house, a tune, a picture, a 
wife when this happens, then you may know that some- 
thing has been wrong all along, is still wrong, and that if you 
would set it right you must go back to the very beginning 
again. 

So there I stood, an unhappy, over-confident little scholar, 
whom the inexorable tutor silently points back to his task. 

Humbly I returned to the book that, if it told me anything 
at all, must at least tell me this. 

And now I must ask you to bear your portion of that little 
shiny-backed book too; for on a point of this importance 1 
cannot allow you to accept my own conclusions on trust. 
You must know how I arrived at them. Where Derwent 
Rose was at that moment, what manner of man he was, what 
he was doing, how long he might continue to do it, whether 
he was alive at all these things depended on no off-handed 
survey of his case, but on the dry figures, dates and details 
that I had hitherto neglected. 

Fortunately we had a roughly-sufficient starting-point. 
This was the date of June 8th, 1920, the day when I had met 
him at the Lyonnesse Club. It was not, it must be confessed, 
his true zero. The true zero was now indiscoverable. But 
I myself, in good faith and knowing nothing of all this, had 
judged him to be thirty-five that afternoon ; he himself had 
confirmed my judgment, subsequent changes had sufficiently 
borne it out, and the diary now re-affirmed it. 

So much for June 8th, when, if he had had an age at all, 
it had presumably been thirty-five. Thereafter he had dis- 
appeared for exactly three weeks, and on June 29th, a 
Tuesday, he had spoken to me in the picture-house in 
Shaftesbury Avenue. 



i88 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

On the following day, Wednesday, June 3Oth, I had 
returned to Haslemere, having left Julia waiting for her 
books in the reading-room of the British Museum. 

Then, two days later still, on Friday, July 2nd, they had 
unexpectedly turned up together at my house. 

Now a definite note in the diary, written as a matter of 
fact in my own house ( for he kept it instantly up to date) , 
told me that on that day, July 2nd, he had "felt twenty-nine." 
True, he had later admitted the vagueness of these mere 
"feelings" as an index to age, but there it was for what it 
was worth, and it agreed with the impression I had myself 
formed, based on his vivid and ecstatic and momentary 
moods. Except when I had compelled him to speak of his 
book, Saturday had been the counterpart of Friday. That 
is to say, that during the whole of Friday and Saturday he 
had remained twenty-nine. 

Therefore (and omitting the loss of the years forty-five 
to thirty-five, now untraceable), during the twenty-five days 
from June 8th to July 3rd he had dropped a total of six 
years. 

So far so good ; but that was not quite what I wanted to 
know. What I was trying to ascertain was a far more im- 
portant thing the shortest actual time in which he had lost 
the great length of apparent time. It would make the 
greatest practical difference in the world whether this figure 
were a high or a low one. 

And now groan, as I groaned, when you look at the four 
days between June 2gth and July 3rd those four days in 
which, in order that he might be at the very top of his power 
for the writing of his book, he had vehemently denied his 
age, had juggled with it, wrestled with it, refused it, ignored 
it, vowed that a false middle was or should be a true one, 
and had hung as it were to a strap while the whole momen- 
tum of his being had tried to sway him in another direction. 

The entry for those four days was a mere question-mark 
with an open choice. It read: 

"Thirty-three thirty ?" 

And yet on the fifth day he had been twenty-nine ! 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



189 



Now let us take the queried figures separately and subtract. 

If on the fourth day he had been the lower figure thirty 
then he had only dropped a year in a night. 

But if on the fourth day he had been thirty-three, then 
he had dropped four whole years in the same time. 

Either was possible, and yet in the one case the ratio was, 
appallingly, four times as great as in the other. 

And now that I was getting to the root of the matter I 
wished to take nothing for granted. His equations were 
high above my head, but I reviewed the position in terms of 
my own. This is how I set it out : 



THE DIARY NOW TOLD 

ME 

That his "straphanging" age 
three weeks later (on June 
2Qth) was "thirty-three 
thirty." 

In a pathetic little jotting of 
the same date, that he feared 
he would never write his 
book, that he was "getting 
too young for it," but that he 
intended to attempt it at all 
costs. 

That he now doubted whether 
what he had at first thought 
to be will-power had really 
been that at all ; in fact, that 
the real effort of will would 
have been, not to put his 
work out of his head for a 
couple of days, but to re- 
member it. 



At this point I began to grow excited. It seemed to me 
that at last I began to see light. I had taken him step by 
step from the starting-point of June 8th to the evening of 
Saturday, July 3rd, and the reason I had not gone beyond 
that date was that the diary itself stopped there. Its last 



I HAD ALREADY KNOWN 



That by June 8th he had 
slipped back from forty-five 
to thirty-five. 

That on Wednesday, June 30th, 
Julia had been scheming to 
make herself his secretary. 



That on the following Friday 
and Saturday, at my house, 
he had been vivid, momen- 
tary, intense. 



190 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

entry was the one I have just given that he feared he had 
been mistaken in supposing that will-power had had any- 
thing whatever to do with that stolen week-end's holiday. 

Oh, had there but been one, one single entry dated Sunday, 
July 4th ! 

For if it was possible for him to shuffle off four years in 
what I may call an ordinary night, what was impossible after 
an experience as stupefying as had been his on the night of 
Saturday-Sunday ? 

And yet in appearance it had not altered him. I had spent 
practically the whole of Sunday with him, and there had 
been nothing to indicate that he was not still twenty-nine. 
His manner, it is true, had been alternately jumpy and mo- 
rose, but that might have been the mere vague pull of his 
Wander jahre. Therefore it looked as if that mad onslaught 
of Julia's on his stability had passed him over after all. 

Ah, but wait a moment! ... I sat up at my desk, vocifer- 
ating the words aloud. Were we at such a dead end after 
all? Perhaps not. . . . 

And first of all I remembered that question I had asked 
him about the flash-lamp as he had stood behind the screen 
of rugosa roses on the Sunday afternoon. "Has there been 
a moment since yesterday when that lamp has been held as 
close as it could be held?" Again I saw his sudden pallor. 
Again I felt his clutch on my shoulder, again heard his faint 
"George I've been trying to remember . . . the lamp . . . 
very close . . . touching . . . one intense brilliant spot . . . 
but I swear I never moved it ... it was as if somebody 
took the torch out of my hand . . . somebody meddled in 
my life. . . ." 

And he had made me go through his Saturday evening's 
programme again his inspection of the Hogarths, his un- 
usual wakefulness, the hour at which he had gone upstairs. 

Only for a few moments on the Sunday morning had he 
seemed dimly to surmise that something of the last impor- 
tance might have happened to him during the hours of dark- 
ness. He had then forgotten all about it. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 191 

Nevertheless, would not his next rejuvenation date, not 
the moment of the fact itself, but from that of the beginning 
of his realisation of it? 

No no I was not quite right even yet. Even that mo- 
ment of wild fear, so quickly gone again, was not the moment 
I sought. Even after that he might to all appearances have 
remained twenty-nine for some hours longer. 

For his change happened while he slept, and I had not 
reckoned with that sleep that must come in between. 

His next sleep had been, not in my house, but in Trench- 
ard's loft. 

Monday morning, July $th, had been his new starting- 
point, and that day he had disappeared. 

You have now all the material dates that I had. You 
know that in comparatively uneventful, unexciting circum- 
stances he could go back four years in a night. And I have 
told you of the headlong role Julia Oliphant had taken upon 
herself. 

How old, then, was Derwent Rose when he woke up in 
Trenchard's rooms on the morning of Monday, July 5th, 
1920? 

Twenty-five ? 

Twenty ? 

Or sixteen and already dead ? 



II 

I now turn to that portion of the diary that seemed to con- 
firm my impression that he had gone to France. 

Both his memories, "A" and "B," appeared so far to be 
functioning normally. In order to ascertain this he had 
applied a number of ingenious tests to himself. But it im- 
mediately struck me that while all his "A" (or Age) notes 
were written in English, all those in the "B" (or Boyhood) 
direction were in French. 

And not only was the language French. The illustrations 



192 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

and incidents were French in character also. Thus, he wrote 
in English : "Have been trying to see how much of Esau I 
can remember without looking at the book" ; but of some- 
thing that had once happened in Marseilles I read : "Je tache 
de me debrouiller de ces souvenirs-ci." There might have 
been purpose in this alternation of the two languages, but I 
was more inclined to think that he had done it purely instinc- 
tively. When a man speaks a language as Derwent Rose 
spoke French he finds a pleasure in the mere exercise of his 
attainment. France had always attracted him, he had not 
unlimited money at his disposal, and mere considerations of 
ordinary time (an intensely special thing to him) might pre- 
clude his getting more than a few hours' journey away. 
Anyway, with one thing and another, I had chanced it, and 
guessed that somewhere on the north coast of France would 
find him. 

"And you're going over there to stay with the Airds," 
Julia mused. "Then there's just a possibility " 

"Oh, the whole coast will be swarming with English by the 
end of the month." 

"Still " 

"Do you want me to let you know if I come across him ?" 

"Oh, I don't know. I leave it to you. Do just as you 
think. When are you going?" 

"On the thirtieth." 

"What about his money?" 

"Oh, he needn't worry about that." 

"George" she looked at me accusingly "I believe you've 
bought those things of his yourself." 

"Bought's hardly the word," I laughed. "Anyway, why 
shouldn't I r* 

"And you're going to finance him." 

"Well, the man's got to eat. And Carpentier might knock 
him out." 

She looked away down the crowded tea-room and made 
no reply. 

She herself had chosen the Piccadilly, and I looked at her 
again as she sat there* tucked away in a far corner of the. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 193 

room, with merry parties at the neighbouring tables and 
De Groot playing the "Relicario." She was differently and 
quite brilliantly dressed. As far as externals could assist 
her, she appeared to have resolved to go back step by step 
and hand in hand with Derwent Rose. Her furs were 
thrown back, showing the V-shaped opening of her brown 
charmeusc, perfectly plain except for a tiny bronze beading 
at the edge and a lump of amber on a fine gold chain. Her 
arms were dropped over the sides of her chair, making from 
throat and dropped shoulders to the tips of her fingers one 
mantle-like flowing line. Her dark hair was arranged after 
a different fashion, and on it was a little brown brocade 
toque with owl's ears sticking out. About her younger 
women chattered and laughed, but among them she seemed 
to be I hardly know how to express it above rather than 
out of the picture, architecture to their building, a contralto 
melody underrunning their treble and fragmentary tunes, a 
white marble against which their fountains glittered and 
rainbowed and splashed. No shawls, worsted stockings and 
hot milk here ! If Derry must be young, she too would be 
as young as clothes could make her. And I could not deny 
her success. 

Not a word had I said to her about my discovery of his 
diary. I did not see what help it would be to do so. It could 
only open up the rather dreadful question, whether, in sud- 
denly thrusting into the infinitely-delicate mechanism of his 
progression no less potent a factor than herself, she had not 
brought irreparable ruin upon him. More and more I had 
begun to fear that this might be so. I have already said how 
little I was concerned with the mere right or wrong of her 
theft, gift, or whatever else she liked to call it. That was 
swept aside in the singularity of the whole catastrophe. But 
for him I was deeply anxious. I could not shake off the 
impression that this time he must have "dropped" very heav- 
ily indeed. I thought I knew now why he had not tele- 
graphed for that diary. It was of little further use to him. 
He had begun it with that torch at the cool and wide and 
"philosophic" range; he had continued it at the "emotional" 



194 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

focus of keen and rapid sensation ; but at that point the diary 
had stopped. There was no entry since Julia Oliphant, see- 
ing her Eden twice and no angel with a flaming sword 
guarding this unsuspected postern of it, had set all a-flux in 
one blinding spot of irrevocable contact. Could the torch, 
after that climax, ever be withdrawn again? Was he at this 
moment burning out the residue of his youth at its whitest 
heat of combustion ? Was he, since that last sleep in Trench- 
ard's place, rushing through the months and_years so swiftly 
as to gasp for very breath ? 

And if so, what were those experiences that swept down 
on him in one wild blurr of things long since finished with, 
unrepeatable in their original form, and yet inevitably to be 
repeated in that form or in another ? 

To all this Julia was still the key. One or two trivia in 
his diary apart, she was the only key. She it was who had 
received those letters of his from Nimes, Aries, Trieste, and 
who farther back still had known his childhood, its happiness, 
aspirations, beliefs, dreams. Whatever soil he trod at this 
moment he must still be the boy she had known in a Sussex 
village. French stained-glass instead of English might hold 
his rapt eyes, the organ of a High Mass evoke raptures in his 
Anglican heart, but he was still the same. 

And, before that stage was reached, the wild and reckless 
English years might even now be re-enacting themselves 
somewhere in the Pas de Calais, Ille-et-Vilaine or the Cote 
du Nord. 

And she who had given that extra spin to the already 
whizzing wheel of his fate sat there in the Piccadilly, her 
head a little back, her lips a little parted, her dark eyes 
sensitised to all the glitter of the room, the fingers of one 
down-hung hand moving in time to Raquel's song. 

Suddenly I broke in on her mood. 

"Julia. As a practical matter. How do you suppose he 
got to France? It isn't easy for a man without papers of 
any kind, you know." 

"Oh, he'd get there if he wanted to," she answered, the 
fingers still beating tim. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 195 

"Easy enough to talk, but we may as well look at the prac- 
tical side of it. He'll have to." 

"If you mean his money, that's very nice of you, George, 
but I thought that was all arranged? Or do you mean that 
as he used to write to me before he may do so again? If 
that's it you can hand his money over to me." 

"I wasn't thinking of that. I was thinking " 

But she interrupted me vivaciously. "Oh, look at that 
woman in the cloak just getting up! That's rather a wrap, 
isn't it ? And I wonder whether I could wear those shoes ! 
. . . Now that's what I call having the best of both worlds, 
George. She's all the advantages of that flapper with the 
nice fair-haired boy there the one smoking a cigarette and 
showing her garters as well as being a woman. But per- 
haps she isn't your type. Men do run to types, don't they? 
. . . George, you're not listening. I asked you whether men 
ran to types." 

"If you mean do I, you've had most of my time lately." 

"Don't be silly. I mean women men are in love with. 
Or are you all ready to toy with anything that comes along ?" 

"I thought that you said the end of that man was that he 
knew nothing about women." 

"Oh, what's the use of telling me what I used to say!" 
She tossed the little cap with the owl's ears. "At any rate 
I don't talk the same folly twice. Life's too short. Do you 
like my hat?" 

"Very charming." 

"Not absurd on me? Nor the way I've done my hair for 
it? I'm not mutton-dressed-as-lamb ? And you haven't 
seen my shoes " 

Round the leg of her chair she pushed a suede sheath slen- 
der as one of the willow-leaves on my pond. 

"I do hold my own ? Among all these smooth hairs and 
pretty complexions? I haven't got a touch of powder on; 
do you think I should? Don't flatter; honestly; should I be 
all right if I met Deny?" 

I looked at her without smiling. "Which Derry ?" I asked. 

"Oh, any Derry ! Derry at his maddest, his wildest ! Tell 



196 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

me, George: if I'd had just one grain of sense before instead 
of being a sloppy art-student he only remembered once in 
six months, all flat heels and hair in her eyes, thinking that 
by cutting sandwiches . . . don't you think, George? 
Mightn't it have made a wee bit of difference ? And won't it 
still when " 

"When what?" 

"Oh any moment ! Who knows ?" 

I tried to break the current of her infatuated fancies. 

"Julia, don't you think " But her eyes laughed me 

down. 

"Think, George! ... But this is thinking! You've no 
idea of the amount of brainwork there is in it ! Oh, I'm not 
talking about rubbishy books and pictures now ! Why, this 
is all the thinking I've ever done !" 

"I was going to ask you whether you thought that things 
with him were going quicker than they ought to, let us say." 

"Not if they bring him back to me." 

"But you let him go away." 

"Oh, on his Wander jahre. I dare say that's all over by 
now." 

"Then you do think he may have speeded up?" 

"It wouldn't surprise me." 

"Why wouldn't it?" 

"Nothing would surprise me." 

"But this particular thing?" 

She shook with soft laughter. "Oh, George, some nice 
steady-going woman like I used to be ought to adopt you. 
. . . Why, you stupid, as if I wasn't willing him to speed up, 
as you call it, with every particle that's in me, if only I can 
manage to be somewhere at hand when he gets there !" 

I gave her a quick look. "Do you mean that you're going 
to slip over to France after all ?" I demanded. 

"No. Wasn't thinking of it. As far as I know at present 
I shall just stay here. But," she said meaningly, "if I were 
going anywhere it wouldn't be France," 

"Where would it be?" 

"Belgium." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 197 

"Belgium's about the last place anybody with his war- 
experience would go to for a holiday/' 

"What, Antwerp in August?" 

"I don't see. Sorry." 

"Aren't they holding the Olympic games there?" 

"Ah ! . . . So you think they might draw him ?" 

"I didn't say so. I don't know as a matter of fact that I 
should go to Antwerp either. But you once asked me 
whether I thought I could bring him by just sitting still and 
loving him. Well" a victorious smile "I almost believe I 
could now. But I shouldn't cut him sandwiches now. I 
shouldn't be just somebody he remembered when he was at 
a loose end now. I'd have him keen, George-old-Thing. 
He'd think anything I gave him a devil of a favour. Look 
at that wise young minx with the garters there ; I'd have him 
to heel as she has her boy. Look, she's having a cocktail. 
Order me a cocktail, please." 

"Which? Martini? Manhattan? Bronx?" 

"I dunno. Never tasted one in my life. But I'm not too 
proud to learn. And Geordie" she shot a sidelong glance 
at me "I've half a mind to begin practising on you !" 

"Well if that will keep you from practising on anybody 
else " 

"You think you'd be safe, George?" 

"Wretchedly safe." 

All at once the hectic manner seemed to fall from her. A 
little incision appeared for a moment between her brows. 
She pressed it away again with her fingers. 

"I suppose so," she said quietly. "You can't say ours 
isn't an extraordinary relation. It's safe to say there's noth- 
ing like it in this room." 

Nor anywhere else, I thought; and I was glad to think 
so. I am an average, more or less straight-living man, with 
a bias towards virtue rather than the other way ; but almost 
any relation, it seemed to me, was to be preferred to this 
unnatural inhibition that had so singularly little to do with 
virtue. Allow me, as a man who possibly has been nearer 
to these things than you have, to give you a little advice. 



198 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Avoid, by all means in your power, contact with a man who 
has put over the reversing-gear of his life as Derwent Rose 
had done. He will land you in his own net. Unless you are 
more magnificently steady than I, even when it comes to your 
relations with an admirable woman you will find yourself 
interfered with at every step you take. Even the evil that 
you would you do not, and the good that you would not, 
that you do. 

But it was a question of her rather than of me. I was only 
at the fringe of the moral commotion Derwent Rose had 
made on this planet. She was deliberately advancing on its 
very storm-centre. And in the very nature of things she was 
doomed to frustration. It seemed to me that she had already 
frustrated herself. For suppose she should succeed in her 
aim, and should pull off well, whatever Rose had hinted at 
when he had spoken of Andalusian dancers and tilted mir- 
rors in Marseilles sailors' kens. What then ? That had not 
been Derwent Rose! "Je tache de me debrouiller de ces 
souvenirs-ci." Where was her success, seeing that it had 
been the greatest of his dreads that he must re-live that 
dingy phase before finding the lovelier Derwent Rose who 
dwelt away on the other side ? 

Therefore, do what she would, her lot was as predestined 
as his own. Her successive roles awaited her also sister, 
aunt, elderly friend. But the way to Eden ah, that she 
would terribly contrive ! He, sick with a twice-lived anxiety, 
might turn away from his fence ; but she approached it 
from the other side. Dust and ashes to him were all entice- 
ment to her. Once already she had put herself in his way ; 
but what was once? . . . Ah, these inappeasable human 
hearts of ours ! We cry "Give me but this, Lord, and I ask 
no more." But, having it, we must have more. "Nay, Lord, 
so quickly gone?" . . . She recked not that presently his 
sins would be all un-sinned again, while her own would be 
upheaped an hundredfold. Her lot was his. Jointly they 
advanced on a common fate. When all was over she would 
put off those crafty garments again. But until then he was 
to be tripped at his maddest, at his wildest. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 199 

"Julia," I said with a failing voice, "for his sake can't 
you let it rest ?" 

She turned quickly. "What do you mean for his sake?" 

"For pity of him perhaps even for his life." 

She broke out, softly, but with a concentration of energy 
that I can hardly express. 

"For pity of him! And why of him? What about me? 
Why do you try to separate us ? We never were separated 
really. All that ever separated us was my own ignorance 
and conceit and not having the right hair! I'll bob it I'll 
peroxide it I'll do anything but I'm not going to stop 
now!" 

I tried to quieten her, but she went passionately on. 

"Pity of him! Why, it's for pity of him that I'm doing 
it ! Why should he for ever give, give, give, and get nothing 
in return? He never did get anything nothing out of his 
books, nothing out of his life, only this one magnificent thing 
that's happened! He's flung pearls away, all the splendid 
pearls of himself, flung them to the grunters as they did in 
the Bible, and all they wanted was common greasy farthings ! 
Farthings would have done, and he showered pearls on 'em ! 
And not one single thing did he ever get back ! Oh, it makes 
me boil ! . . . But I've picked up a wrinkle or two since 
then, George! Nobody ever told me anything about life, 
nothing that was true. They told me that if I opened my 
mouth and shut my eyes and never forgot that I'd been nicely 
brought up all sorts of lovely things would come of them- 
selves. Nobody ever told me I should have to get up and get 
and fight for my own hand. I was to speak when I was 
spoken to, and what did it matter how I did my hair or what 
sort of shoes I wore as long as men understood I was a nice 
girl and not to be taken liberties with? They took their 
liberties somewhere else we weren't supposed to know any- 
thing about. The un-nice girls got the insults and the 
pearls. We just went on being respected, and sometimes, 
if we'd been very nice indeed, one of us would get a greasy 
farthing after all the pearls were gone. They called that 
marriage, and said it was the crown of a woman's life. 



200 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

That's what we were taught, George. That's what every 
woman of my age was taught. And look at Peggy there get- 
ting away with it as fast as she can !" 

I touched her sleeve, but she refused to be stopped. 

"And it was all my own fault for believing them. I ought 
to have thought it out for myself, like Peggy. It was my 
job, and I didn't do it. I painted idiotic canvases instead. 
It wasn't Berry's job. It isn't any man's job. I'd been 
throwing sheep's-eyes at him all my life ; why didn't I say 
to myself, 'Look here, Julia my girl, this doesn't appear to 
be working somehow. Cutting sandwiches and letting him 
pose for you and mooning about him afterwards isn't doing 
the trick. You know he's obtainable because you know 
other women do it. What's the matter with you?' I ought 
to have asked myself that, and I didn't. I let myself drift 
into being a 'good sort' to him. Stupidest thing a woman 
can do. I expect he'd have thought it a sort O'f sacrilege to 
kiss me. Sacrilege! " 

She checked contemptuously at the word, but went straight 
on. 

"And now this has happene'd, just to him and me, and if 
it never happened before, all the more gorgeous luck! He 
shall have something back for his life. He shall know what 
love is before he dies. You can go to anybody you like for 
your portrait, George; Peggy and I are out for blood. 
What's the good of having luck if you don't believe in it? 
If being nice didn't work let's have a shot at the other thing. 
(Ah, so that's a cocktail!) So that's that, George. Some- 
thing's bound to happen. He'll be writing to me or some- 
thing ; I'm not worrying in the least. . . . But I mustn't let 
my neck get all pink like this just with thinking of him." 
She fetched out a little mirror and a puff. "Nice girls used 
to do that, and it was called maiden modesty, and I'm 
damned if it paid. I'm perfectly willing to learn, either from 
Peggy with her garters or anybody else. . . . Ah, she's get- 
ting up ! I must see her close to " 

She was on her feet. I heard her murmur, "I'm taller 
than she is anyway " 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 201 

"Sit down till I've got the waiter," I said. 

But she continued to stand. She was looking after the 
girl she had called Peggy erect, ready, perilously in- 
structed, a beautiful danger. Her life had been one unvary- 
ing, starry lamp of love ; now, for the beguiling of the Derry 
of those onrushing years of the heat of his blood, a hundred 
false fires were being prepared. And I could only remain 
silent at the wonder of it, that all was one, and that the false 
was no less true than the true. 



Ill 

It still wanted a week to the thirtieth, but I had various 
matters to set in order, and the time passed quickly. I saw 
Julia once more before I left. She still nonchalantly left it 
to me, should I come across Derry, to let her know or not, as 
I thought best. She herself was not going very far merely 
into Buckingham to stay with friends. She gave me dates 
and addresses, and then her manner seemed to me to show 
some hesitation. 

"If he should write to me for money suddenly," she said. 
"You see, you won't be at hand." 

"Oh, that's all arranged. He wouldn't wait till he was 
actually starving before he wrote, and Mrs Moxon is re- 
addressing all letters immediately." 

"But suppose he wrote to me. I've no money." 

"Then you can wire me. I'll arrange for a sight-draft." 

Her hands smoothed down the body of a frock I had not 
seen before a sooty shower of black chiffon over I know 
not what intricately-simple and expensive-looking swathing 
below. 

"I believe you're afraid to trust me with his money," she 
smiled, preening herself. 

This conversation, I ought to say, took place in her studio. 
Suddenly I looked up. 

"Julia," I demanded, "where's that tallboy gone?" 

"The tallboy? Oh, it's somewhere about the place." 



202 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"On your back?" 

"Not all of it. Some of it's on my feet. Don't you like 
them?" 

She showed them. I turned away. 

"Then," I said, "if he's selling furniture to pay for a holi- 
day, and you're selling it to buy frocks, I certainly shan't 
trust you with a penny. If he writes to you you'd better 
wire me." 

"Poor Julia!" she laughed. "When she was sensible she 
could do nothing right, and now that she's quite mad she's 
as wrong as ever. Well, a short life and a gay one. Good- 
bye, George, and a happy holiday " 

So the evening of the thirtieth found me on the St Malo 
boat, hoping it wasn't going to rain for I had looked down 
below and preferred the deck. Smoothly we glided down 
Southampton Water. The boat was packed, and I was un- 
able to dine till ten o'clock. Then I came up on deck again 
and set about making myself comfortable for the night. 

It did rain, but I was well tucked away in the shelter of a 
deck-house, and was little the worse for it. A fresh south- 
west wind blew, and I watched the phantom-grey water that 
hissed and rustled hoarsely past our sides. The throbbing 
of the engines began to beat softly and incessantly in my 
head, and half dozing, I found myself wondering what Derry 
had done about his passport. "Throb-throb," churned the 
engines . . . perhaps he had forged himself a seaman's and 
fireman's ticket, signed on as a deckhand or stoker, and had 
given the L.S.W. Railway Company the slip the moment he 
had got across. Dreamily, muffled up in my wrappings, I 
tried to picture it. He would be careful. He would be 
careful about his beard, for example. He would let it grow 
a day or so before ; perhaps he would now continue to wear 
a beard. Unless. . . . And he would sleep the day before 
and stoke through the night. A stoker for a night, dressed 
in a boiler-suit or stripped to the waist, as he had stripped 
when he had held Julia Oliphant's sewing-machine aloft. 
And grime in his golden beard. Or else the author of The 
Vicarage of Bray bending the warp on to the drum of the 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 203 

steam-winch or putting the luggage in the slings in the hold. 
Oh, as she had said, he would get across somehow if he 
wanted to. ... 

And once across he would have very little trouble. He 
would mingle with the porters and camionneurs, carrying 
his gear in his hand. Probably he would pretend it was 
somebody else's. Then the small luggage through first 
rien a declarer his perfect French he would be along 
the quay and in the vedette before they had begun to get the 
big stuff out of the hold. As for his passport oh, he would 
manage. . . . 

An employe picked his way through the dark huddles on 
the deck, took the reading of the log, and retired again. The 
masthead lights made loops and circles in the rain. I took 
a nip from my flask and dropped back into my doze. Alder- 
ney Light winked, and up the Race it blew stiffly. . . . 

Yes, he would get across if he had made up his mind to. 
As for his permis de sejour oh, things like that were for 
ordinary people. What would he do with a permis de sejour 
who had no permis de sejour in life itself, but must doubly 
dodge through it, from this place to that and from one date 
to the date before? . . . But I rather fancied he had gone 
by Dover. Certain notes almost at the end of his diary 
seemed an indication of that. These notes had no coherence 
just odd words like "Lord Warden," "boat," "tide," and a 
little time-table of figures. Apparently he had worked it out 
just before that week-end he had spent with me. . . . "Lord 
Warden" that meant Dover tide time. . . . Again the 
Company's man came to take the reading of the log. Again 
the throbbing of the engines evoked the image of Derry, 
stripped, moving in the red glare of the furnaces, sweating, 
coal-dust in his beard. But perhaps he no longer had a 
beard. Perhaps Julia had made sure of that. Julia, des- 
perate creature, wild, disturbing creature. . . . Peggy in her 
garters . . . selling furniture to buy frocks, shoes, stock- 
ings, scent. . . . "Pour Troubler," "Mysterieuse" . . . 
"Mysterieuse, Mysterieuse, Mysterieuse," sighed the water 
rushing past. . . . And in the Piccadilly, that long white 



204 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



throat, the fine angle of her jaw, among little double chins, 
little buttons of chins, short necks, thrust-forward necks, 
square shoulders instead of that long mantle-like line down 
over her shoulders like swift water before it breaks, to the 
fingers that moved softly in time to the "Relicario" . . . the 
"Relicario" . . . De Groot . . . De Groot, De Groot, De 
Groot. . . . Mysttrieuse, Mystmeuse. . . ^ Again the read- 
ing of the log, again the sailor's return through the dozing 
huddles on the deck ; the phantom-grey water rustling hoarse- 
ly past, the masthead lights swinging aloft. I hate these 
short and crowded crossings when it is hardly worth while 
to take off your clothes and you arrive cramped, crumpled, 
unshaven, unrefreshed. I wondered how early it would be 
possible to get a cup of tea. A cup of tea a cocktail cock- 
tails for tea "So that's a cocktail !" Manhattan, 'Manhat- 
tan, De Groot, De Groot, De Groot. . . . 

Another pull at my flask, and then I really did sleep. 

The day was grey when I awoke. The huddles on the 
deck had begun to stir. The east kindled, as I had last seen 
it kindle over the Devil's Punch Bowl and Gibbet Hill. The 
sun flashed on the waves, on people bestirring themselves, 
opening dressing-cases, making such toilets as they could. 
Then I heard the welcome click of teacups and flung off my 
rugs. I went below, secured a seat for breakfast, and made 
myself less unpresentable. Hot breakfast, after all, goes a 
long way towards obliterating the discomforts of a night on 
deck. As I rose from the table I glanced through the open 
port. Pale on the starboard bow was the long fine pf Cap 
Frehel, ahead was St Malo's spire. 



FRANCE 



PART I 
THE LONG SPLICE 



As the little vedette approached Dinard Cale I had got 
quickly through the Customs and come across with the 
hampers of that morning's fish an Alec Aird out of a Men's 
Summer Catalogue waved his hand to George Coverham out 
of a flea-bag and called out a cheery good morning. It was 
hardly yet half -past seven, so Alec must have been up be- 
times. He seized the two bags I pushed ashore and gestic- 
ulated to the driver of a nondescript sort of carosse. Then 
he looked me up and down and grinned. 

"Ready for breakfast?" 

"I'm ready for some hot water and clean clothes," I re- 
plied. "No, it wasn't so bad." 

"And is this all the stuff you've brought? I asked you 
to come and stay with us, not just to drop in to lunch. Well, 
up you get. I don't suppose you'll see Madge and Jennie 
till midday. That damned Casino; three a.m. again last 
night. But it's no good talking to Madge. It always ends 
in her doing just as she likes. Why, when I was Jennie's 
age I didn't know there was such a thing as a roulette-table. 
... I say, have you brought any English tobacco ?" 

I had not been in Dinard, nor indeed in France at all, since 
before the war; but the long steep street where the little 
dark cafes were opening seemed very friendly and familiar. 
We rumbled past the English Club into the Rue Lavavasseur, 
and instinctively my head turned to the right. Each short de- 
scending street gave the same remembered glimpse, of white 
casino or hotel at the bottom and the bright emerald beyond. 
We clattered down to the Place, and then slackened again to 
the ascent of dark tree-planted avenues. "Gauche droit, 
I mean starboard a couple of points," directed Alec, whose 
French bears no very great strain; and after ten minutes 

207 



208 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

or so the sound of our wheels suddenly ceased. We were 
on the soft sandy drive that ended at the gate of Ker Annie. 

Alec Aird hates the Casino, partly because they won't let 
him smoke his pipe there, partly because he doesn't like his 
life strung up to concert-pitch all the time. But Madge 
loves these vast vestibules of shining mahogany and cut and 
bevelled glass, these palms that brush the electric chandeliers, 
these broad terraces, all this bright restlessness of hotels and 
shops and plage. So they had split the difference in the 
villa they had rented. It stood high-perched among ilex and 
Spanish-chestnut, looking out over the rocks and islands that 
make of that bay a jaw full of cruel black splintered teeth. 
It had little broken lawns set with hydrangeas and beds and 
borders of blood-red begonias and montbretia and geraniums 
and marguerites, the whole tilted up as if it would have 
spilled over the rough cliff-top to the rocks below. The 
plage itself was hidden, but a little way out the translucent 
greens began, dappled with a fairy-like refraction that 
brought the purply shoals almost up to the surface. After 
that away northwards spread the wide sea serene yet cu- 
riously wistful, tender yet never gay, dreamily lovely but 
unflashing, unglittering the pensive aspect of a sea that has 
its back to the sun. 

"Here we are," said Alec as we pulled up in front of a 
chromo-lithograph from a toybox lid, the villa of dove-grey 
with shutters of a chalky greeny- white and slender ironwork 
everywhere grilles of ironwork over the glazing of the 
double doors, scrolled balcony railings, and iron passemen- 
terie along the ridge of the mansard-roof. "Now look here, 
if you want to go to bed say so, and we'll all be Sleeping 
Beauties confound those rotten late hours for that kid " 

I assured him that I had no wish to go to bed. 

"Right. Then come along upstairs, and sing out if there's 
anything you want. You'll find me somewhere about when 
you come down. And you might give me that tobacco " 

And, showing me up a staircase of waxed boards into my 
room, he left me to my toilet. 

The pergola in which I found him three quarters of an 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 209 

hour later was at the bottom of the garden. Its roof was 
latticed, so that over the floor, over the garden chairs and 
tables, over our shoulders and hands and white flannels, lay 
an intricate shepherd's-plaid of gay shadow that crept like 
a net over us whenever we moved. A bonne followed me 
with coffee and rolls, and we sat down to talk and to watch 
the flat untwinkling sea. 

We, or rather Alec, talked of Roche rolling-stock on 
French lines (did I tell you my friend was by way of being 
a consulting engineer?), of coasting boats building at St 
Malo, of France's prospects of recovery from the devasta- 
tion of the war. He thought they might pick up quickly, 
applauded the way they were putting their backs into it. 
And it may have been my fancy or the force of former as- 
sociations, but already I was conscious of a different atmos- 
phere. There seemed to thrill in the very air the push of a 
logical, practical, unsentimental people. I had felt it in the 
bustle of the porters and camionneurs on St Malo quay, in 
the unyielding Breton eyes of the fishwives in the vedette, 
in the ten francs that that scoundrel of a cocher had over- 
charged Alec. It began to be impossible to look over that 
sunny emerald water and to say to yourself, "A man with 
two memories is bathing in that," to sit in the warm cage of 
that pergola and to remember a man who clung to false mid- 
dles and had extraordinary things happen to him in the night. 
Beyond the point a couple of fishing-boats and a brown- 
sailed bisquine appeared. Out toward St Cast crept an early 
pleasure steamer, its smoke trailing behind it like a smudge 
of brown worsted. From somewhere behind that toybox of 
a villa came rapid exchanges in French the day's provisions 
were arriving. 

Suddenly Alec looked at his watch. "I say, what about 
having a look in at the Stade? I expect there are a few of 
them there by now." 

"Anything you like; what's on?" 

"These elimination-trials for Antwerp next month," Alec 
replied, who was a Fettes man and an International in his 
day, and is still a familiar figure at Twickenham and Black- 



210 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

heath. "Haven't you seen the posters ? 'Debout les Athletes' 
'Sons of the Patrie' they've been all over the place for 
months. All out they are too, and some dashed good athletes 
among 'em. There's one fellow I've heard of called Arnaud 
haven't seen him in fact he's a bit of a mystery . . . but 
look here, we've only just time for the tram. Come 
along " 

The filthy little tram took us to the Stade in ten minutes. 
It was an open field, with tracks and hurdles and a small 
white-painted Grand Stand at one end of it, and already les 
athletes had got down to work. There were perhaps a dozen 
of them, in zephyrs and shorts and sweaters, leaping, prac- 
tising short bursts off the mark, doggedly covering the outer 
track or resting in twos and threes on the grass. Several of 
them wore little more clothing than a pair of shoes and a 
waist-sash. They flaunted their glossy sunburnt backs, stood 
with arms folded over uplifted chests, heads erect, eyes flash- 
ing, and never a smile. No Briton would have dared to dis- 
play such physical naivete. They might have been grimly 
training, not for a sporting contest, but for a duel to the 
death. 

We watched them for an hour, and then the whooping of 
that horrible little tram was heard in the distance. It hurtled 
up to the Halte, fouling the air with the smoke of the dust 
and slate and slack that served it for coal, and we sat with 
our backs to the engine and took what care of our flannels 
we might. 

The sluggards had descended by the time we reached the 
house again. Among the harlequin shadows of the pergola 
Madge advanced to me with both hands outstretched. 

"Monsieur ! Sois le bienvenu !" Then, standing back to 
look at me, "What nice flannels, George ! Some of the 
Frenchmen here, quite nice men, go about in the most ex- 
traordinary cheesecloth arrangements, and as for their 

shoes ! Yes, I think I can be seen with you. You can 

take me shopping this afternoon. I saw it in a window 
yesterday but hadn't time to go in. ('It's' a hat, if you must 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 211 

know, Alec.) And this is Jennie, in case she's grown so 
much you don't remember her." 

There was a time when I used to kiss little Jennie Aird, 
but I should not have dared to kiss the young woman who 
stood before me now. Take-aboutable, by Jove! . . . Jen- 
nie had her father's colouring, golden-red hair over a tea- 
rose-petal complexion lightly freckled ; and if her eyebrows 
were faint, that somehow merely seemed to enhance the 
steady clear pebble-grey of the gaze beneath. She was six 
inches taller than her mother, and whether it was the small- 
ness of her short-featured face that made full her beautiful 
throat, or whether it was the other way round, I will not 
attempt to say. Nor do I remember whether her hair was up 
or down that day. I have an idea that at that time it was 
sometimes the one and sometimes the other. Her gesture 
as she offered me her hand had the proper condescension of 
such a creature for a battered old piece of goods life myself. 
I wondered whether I ought to call her Miss Aird. These 
things come over one with rather a shock sometimes. 

We lunched in a shining little salon, the exact centre of 
which, whether you measured sideways, lengthwise or up- 
and-down, was occupied by an enormous gilt Ganymede and 
Eagle lamp slung by heavy chains from the ceiling for the 
lighting was either oil or candles at Ker Annie. Then back 
to the pergola for coffee. The tide had receded, and the 
rocks and the stakes that marked the channels stuck up 
everywhere menacingly the Fort, Les Herbiers, Cezembre. 
The warm air was laden with the smell of genets, the sky 
was brightly blue over our white lattice. I saw Alec pre- 
paring to doze. 

"Well, what about Dinard?" I said to 'Madge. 

"Sure you wouldn't rather follow Alec's example? Very 
well, we'll drop Jennie at the tennis-place and you and I'll 
go off on the prowl. I'll be ready in five minutes. Jennie !" 

She ran up to the house, and I waited for her on the sandy 
drive. 

We walked into Dinard. The magazin that enshrined 



212 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"It" was near the Casino, and there, in an impermanent little 
white-screened and gilt-chaired shop that had hardly been 
open a fortnight and would close down again the moment 
the season was over, I had a soothing half-hour while Alec's 
money took wing. 

"Mais tiens, Madame" the saleswoman's witty fingers 
touched, hovered, butterflied, while the hat became half a 
dozen different things under the diablerie "pose comme ga, 
en effet sur 1'oreille Claire, la voile verte legerment oh, 
m'sieu!" A delectable gesture of admiration of everything 
and everybody concerned, the hat, the veil, Madge, herself, as 
unabashed as the attitudinising of the sunbrowned young 
athletes. "On dirait un sourire sur la tete de Madame !" 

So, on a purely hypothetical rate of exchange, Madge 
bought three, and we sought the teashop and Jennie. 

All English-speaking Dinard meets at that teashop in the 
afternoon. From four o'clock onwards it is a mob of youths 
in the blazers of Eton and Charterhouse and the Old Mer- 
chant Taylors, forking gateaux from the glass counters for 
themselves, their sisters, other fellows' sisters, their sisters' 
friends. Their days sped in tennis, bathing, tennis, a hur- 
ried dejeuner between the sets, tennis, watching tennis as 
they waited for a partner or a court, a sudden flocking to the 
Le Bras for tea, tennis, dancing, chocolates, and the pro- 
gramme for the tennis for the next day. They filled the 
ground-floor of the shop, made a continual coming and go- 
ing on the staircase that led to the room upstairs. I steered 
Madge towards the table where Jennie was already seated, 
and found myself with young Rugby on rny right, his shirt 
open at the neck, flannels hitched up over his white-socked 
ankles. About me buzzed the whirl of talk. 

"He saw him at Ambleteuse, and he did it in ten in his 
walking-boots on grass " 

"Rot ! It's run in metres, not yards, and the record's ten 
and seventh-tenths " 

"American " 

"I bet you " 

"Well, it's nearly the same, and in his boots on grass " 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 213 

"Oh, put your head in a bag I Jennie, we've got Number 
Four Court for five-thirty, remember " 

"But I tell you this chap Arnaud " 

"Do let me get you one of those strawberry things, Mrs 
Aird " 

"My brother saw him he just threw off his coat and 
waistcoat and ran as he was " 

"Mademoiselle, trois thes, s'il vous plait " 

I spoke in Madge's ear. 

"She's a very beautiful child." 

"Jennie?" said proud Madge. "Rather a young queen, 
isn't she? But Alec's perfectly absurd about her. Thinks 
young people to-day are the same as we were. She shall 
have the best time I can give her." 

"Any ?" I looked the question. 

"No. Quite asleep. She's perfectly happy dancing and 
dreaming and talking sport with these boys." 

"Who are they?" 

She told me. She knew half Dinard, and the printed 
Visitors' List gave her the rest. 

"Well, well," was all I found to say, as I looked at Jennie 
again. 

For while woman's beauty is coeval with Time itself, you 
have only your own allotted portion of it. The loveliness 
that comes too early or too late is no more your affair than 
the dawns before your time, the sunsets after you are gone. 
Madge at the midday of her life was still within my reach 
at my post-meridian, but Jennie would bloom like a rosy day- 
break when my own evening star appeared. Young Rugby, 
young Charterhouse, would write his vers-libre to that small 
head, sweet throat and the red-gold of her hair. ... But I 
hardly know why I write all this. I am only trying to show 
how sorely I had needed a change and how grateful I was 
now that it had come. I knew that I was welcome to stay 
with the Airds as long as I pleased. It didn't matter if I 
didn't write another book for ten years, it didn't greatly mat- 
ter if I never wrote another. I didn't want to write. That 
ethereal sea, that multi-coloured plage, the genet-scented air, 



2i 4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

the feeling that all about me were people who knew what 
they could not do and wasted no time in attempting to do 
it ah, they live their lives from the beginning and end them 
at the end in that fair and unperplexed land of northern 
France. 



II 

Both by Alec and Madge, Jennie's education was discussed 
before me with complete freedom. 

"Stuff and nonsense!" Madge would roundly declare. 

"Look at those two Beverley girls !" 

"Very nice girls, I should have thought," Alec would 
growl. 

"Yes, and who's ever going to marry them? Nobody as 
far as I can see. That's Vi Beverley's fault. She's let them 
sit in one another's pockets, and have their own silly family 
jargon, and think that the rest of the world's a cinema just 
to amuse them, till they don't know how to talk to a stranger 
without being rude. They positively freeze any young man 
who goes near them, and when they do go away it's to 
cousins. Family affection's all very well in its place, but 
you can have too much of it. Jennie shall take people as 
they are. If she does miss an hour's sleep once in a while 
she can stay in bed all next day if she wants." 

"Better teach her baccarat and have done with it." 

"Well, she needn't faint when it's mentioned. This is 
1920. If ever those Beverley girls marry it will be one an- 
other." 

"If she begins to think of marrying in another four or five 
years " 

"She's not going to sit on the arm of your chair for five 
years while you read the Paris Daily Mail. . . . Anyway, 
about to-night's party " 

Then, on the way to the Stade or the Club, I should have 
Alec's view of the matter. 

"When we were kids, if we were allowed to stop up once 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 215 

a year for a pantomime . . . beastly mixed sort of place like 
this too! Madge doesn't know half that goes on. Why, 
before I'd been here three days one of the waiters at the 
Grand had the infernal neck to come up to me and whis- 
per " 

I broke into uncontrollable laughter. The idea of a waiter 
whispering alluring suggestions to Alec Aird of all people 
was altogether too much for me. 

"And what did you say?" I asked him. 

"Say ?" said Alec grimly. "When I said 'Frog' he jumped, 
I promise you that ! . . . And mark you, these French fel- 
lows look after their own women all right got their hands 
on their elbows all the time. It's only our confounded ideas 
of freedom " 

"But there's no harm in to-night's party " 

"Oh, that's all right. That's at home. We can turn 'em 
out at ten o'clock, and be in bed in reasonable time. It's 
that damned Casino I bar " 

And so on. Early to bed and a nap after lunch certainly 
suited Alec. I have seen once-fine athletes settle down like 
this before. 

I had been at Ker Annie some days, when about the last 
thing I expected had happened to me. I have just told you 
how little I cared whether I ever wrote another book or not. 
Well, that morning I had remained in my room after coffee 
and rolls to write a couple of necessary letters. These fin- 
ished, I had sat gazing out of the window at nothing in par- 
ticular, lazily content with the beauty of the morning. Then, 
suddenly and without the least premeditation, I had taken a 
fresh sheet of paper and had begun to make detached and 
random notes. These had presently strung themselves to- 
gether, and by and by a phrase had sprung up of itself. . . . 

Whereupon, in the very moment of my despairing of ever 
writing again, I had realised that my next novel was stirring 
within me. 

Now let me tell you the part that Jennie Aird played in 
this. 

I frankly admit that the writers of my own generation 



216 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

have sometimes been a little smug and make-believe about 
young girlhood. We have seen a lovely thing, and perhaps 
have let its mere loveliness run away with us, to the loss of 
what I believe is nowadays called "contact." We have not 
seen the butterfly's anatomy for the pretty bloom of its wing. 
Nevertheless, I cannot see that the eager young morpholo'- 
gists who are succeeding us have so very much to teach us 
after all. To read some of these you would think that the 
whole moving mystery had been disposed of when they had 
said that a young girl became conscious, shy, and had a talk 
with her mother. If it must be anatomy or bloom, I think 
I shall go on preferring the bloom. I have no wish to ex- 
change the eyes in my head for that improved apparatus that 
turns a woman's hand that is meant to be stooped over into 
a shadowy bundle of metacarpal bones. 

At the same time I do not take it for granted that youth 
is necessarily the happiest season of our lives. I remember 
my own youth too well for that. Emotionally, I am aware, 
it is all over the shop. It will giggle in church or make a 
heartbreak out of nothing, indifferently and with tragical 
facility. It is exploring the new-found marvels within itself 
against the day when its eyes shall open to the miracle of 
another. That, at any rate, and as nearly as I can express 
it, was the state of Madge Aird's sleeping beauty of a daugh- 
ter on the evening of the party of which Madge and Alec 
had spoken. 

It was a ravishing evening of late light over an opal sea. 
The same dusk that turned the begonias velvety-black in 
their beds made luminous the pale hydrangeas, until they 
resembled the glimmering whites and mauves of the frocks 
that moved in and out among them. The villa was lighted 
up like a paper lantern, and the moving couples inside made 
ceaselessly wavering shadows across the lawn. Over the 
ragged bay the phares winked in and out, and beyond the 
ilex and chestnut a faint luminosity trembled the corona of 
Dinard lighting up for the night. 

They danced in and out between the wide hall and the 
salon where the gilded Ganymede struggled with the Eagle 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 217 

youngsters in their first dinner-jackets, sylphs with their 
plaits swinging about their softly-browned napes, their eld- 
ers mingling among them or watching them from the walls. 
Madge, in a frock that seemed to be held up singly and 
solely by her presence of mind, played fox-trots. Alec was 
busy "buttling" in the little recess where a scratch supper 
had been set out. The air was filled with the light talk in 
French and English, throbbed with the rhythm of the fox- 
trotting piano. 

For half an hour or so I made myself agreeable to a num- 
ber of ladies of whose names I had not the faintest idea; 
then, with a sense of duty done, I turned my back on the 
pretty scene and strolled into the garden. On the whole I 
was pleased with my day. That was what I had wanted 
the solace and security of being at work again. Nothing 
world-shaking or tremendous; I simply wanted to get on 
with the unpretentious job that was mine, and incidentally 
to be tolerably well-paid for it. That, when all was said, 
was the way of wisdom, the kind of thing men very properly 
get knighthoods for and had their portraits hung up in Clubs. 
It seemed to me that I had been through a very evil time, 
and that now that I was rid of the weight of it life was worth 
living again. I paced the paths of the gay artificial little gar- 
den, my thoughts on all manner of pleasant times to come. 

Near the end of the house grew an auracaria, forbidding 
and black. As I moved towards it I noticed a dim white 
shape beneath it. I was turning away again ( for at a party 
like that no unaccompanied bachelor has any title to the 
dimmer corners) when the figure moved towards me. It 
was Jennie Aird alone. 

"Hallo, why aren't you dancing?" I asked. I had already 
watched her dance four dances in succession with the same 
partner young Kingston I believe it was. 

She made a quick little grimace, but did not reply. 

"This is rather a nice party," I remarked. 

To this she did reply. "It's a beastly party, and I hate it." 

I drew certain conclusions; but "Oh?" I said. "What's 
the matter with it? I thought it rather fun." 



218 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Everything's beastly, and I wish we were back in Lon- 
don," she snapped. 

"Anything the matter, Jennie ?" 

"Oh, how I do wish people wouldn't ask one what's the 
matter!" 

"Then come for a turn and I won't." 

She put her hand indifferently on my arm. She was 
nearly as tall as I, and I noticed as we passed the windows 
that, that night at any rate, her red-gold plait had been taken 
up and was closely swathed about her nape. 

Of course young Kingsley or young somebody else had 
said something or done something, or hadn't said or done 
anything, or if he had had done it at the wrong moment or 
in the wrong way or had otherwise conjured up the shade of 
tragedy. Therefore, as there are occasions when tact may 
take the form of talking about one's self, I talked to Jennie 
about myself as we skirted the garden. 

"Do you know, something rather exciting happened to me 
this morning," I remarked. 

She showed no great interest, but asked me what it was. 

"It mayn't sound much to you, but it interests me. I 
think I've started a new book." 

"I wish I'd something to do," was the extent of her con- 
gratulation. 

"What would you like to do?" 

"Oh, anything. I shouldn't care what it was. Anything's 
better than this." 

"Than this jolly party?" 

"Yes. Or else I wish I'd been born a man. They get all 
the chances." 

I reflected that one man, somewhere in the world, would 
have a very enviable chance, but kept my thought to myself. 
"Been having a row with somebody?" I asked. 

"No," she answered, I have no doubt entirely untruth- 
fully. "I'm just fed up. I wish I could have nursed in 
the war or something, but I was too young. Or I wish I 
could write like you. But if I told father I wanted to earn 
my own living he wouldn't hear of it, and mother's one idea 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 219 

is to dress me up and show me off and marry me to some- 
body. They don't know how sick I am of it." 

I glanced at her as we passed the lighted windows again. 
That soft red sill of her lower lip was level, and just a shade 
short for the upper member of her mouth's sweet portal, 
so that the pearls within were negligently guarded. Temper 
and discontent were in her pebble-grey eyes. She gave her 
head an impatient toss, as if to shake off the thought of the 
boisterous young cadets and crammer's-pups within. In a 
day she seemed to have outgrown them, to have lengthened 
her mind as she lengthened her frocks if young women do 
lengthen their frocks nowadays. She wanted to nurse, to 
write, to be a student or some personage's secretary, to say 
to the dingy world, "Here I am use me and don't spare 
me," in the very moment when I and such as I, disillusioned 
and worn, were sighing "Enough release me or if that 
may not be, give me but once more, once more that first 
dawning joy!" 

"I don't want to get married," she sulked. "Ever. 
Mother may laugh, but I won't. It would have been differ- 
ent in the war. I love all those darling boys who were 
killed. But these schoolboys are all the same. . . . You 
don't want a secretary for your new book, do you ?" 

It may have been my imagination, but I am not sure that 
there did not stir in my memory some faint echo, of a wom- 
an sitting under a murky dome as she waited for her Manuel 
de Repertoire Bibliographique Universel. I know these sec- 
retaries and their wiles, and if my answer had had twenty 
syllables instead of one I should have meant them all. 

"No," I said. 

We had reached the wrought-iron gates at the beginning 
of the sandy drive. Three or four cars were parked there, 
and apparently somebody or other was leaving early, for a 
chauffeur had just switched on the head-lights of a heavy 
touring-car that shook the ground with its muttering. Judg- 
ing from the power of the lights it was the car of one of 
Madge's French friends, for no English car carries shafts 
so blinding as those twin beams that clove the darkness. 



220 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

They made the windows of the house seem a dull expiring 
turnip-lantern. Their blaze lighted up every pebble, every 
blade of grass, defined the shadows of blade on blade. Out 
of the fumy darkness insects dropped, stunned with light, 
and moved feebly on the path. I drew Jennie behind the 
glare, and as I did so one of the English servant maids came 
up to me. 

"A gentleman wishes to speak to you, sir," she said. 

"To me ? What gentleman ? Where ?" 

"A French gentleman, sir. A M'seer Arnaud his name 
is." 

"Arnaud? I don't know any Arnaud. Are you sure he 
asked for me and not for Mr Aird ?" 

"It was Sir George Coverham he asked for, sir." 

"Well, where is he?" 

"Here at least he was a moment ago " 

"Arnaud?" I mused. "Do you know a M'sieur Arnaud, 
Jennie?" 

As I turned to her I saw her in that false illumination 
with curious distinctness. The soft upward glow from the 
path reminded one of a photographer's manipulation of his 
tissue-paper screens. She stood there semi-footlighted 
smooth brows, low glint of her hair, the caught-up upper lip 
that showed the pearls, her steady gaze. . . . 

Ah, her gaze ! What was this, that made me for a mo- 
ment unable to remove my own eyes from her face? At 
what object beyond the car was she so fixedly looking? 
Why had her bosom risen? Why, as if at some "Open, 
Sesame !" did that betraying upper lip offer, not two, but all 
the pearls within? 

My eyes followed hers. . . . 

As they did so sounds of talk and laughter and farewells 
drew near from the house. The departing guests were upon 
us. 

But I had seen. If only for an instant before it retreated 
swiftly into the shadows again, I had seen. Gazing at her 
as steadily as she had gazed at him, the vision of a young 
man's face had momentarily appeared. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 221 

Then the babble broke out about us. 

"Thank you a thousand times, chere Madame " 

"Delicieuse " 

"Merci, M'sieu' Air-r-r-rd " 

"Better hav.e the rug round you " 

"Where's Jennie ? Ah, here she is " 

"A demain, a onze heures " 

"Good-bye " 

"Good-bye, Sair-r-r George " 

But I still saw that face haunting the transparent gloom. 
A beret cap had surmounted it, a blouse en grosse toile had 
clothed the shoulders below. Monsieur Arnaud, if it was 
he, was dressed as an ouvrier or a sailor dresses. 

And he was young, sunbrowned, grave, beautiful. 

The car backed and turned. There was a grating as the 
clutch was slipped in, and then the engine dropped to a 
steady purr. The wrought-iron gates started out in the 
glare, the red tail-lights diminished. I was dimly aware 
that Madge said something to me, but I remained motion- 
less where I stood. I came to myself to find myself alone. 

Sunbrowned, grave, beautiful, young! 

And he called himself Arnaud ! 

I have told you of that list of names with which his diary 
began. Arnaud was not among them. But Arnold was. 
He had simply Gallicised it, and as Arnaud he was seeking 
me. 

Then I felt my sleeve timidly touched. His voice came 
from behind me, a voice with a charming, uncertain timbre. 

"George I say, George who was that?" 



Ill 

I will make a shameful confession. My heart had sunk 
like lead. I had wanted a holiday from him. That very 
morning I had thought I had secured it, had blithely planned 
my new and cheerful work. 

And here he was, with his hand on my sleeve. 



222 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

He repeated his words in a whisper. "George, who was 
that?" 

Slowly I turned. "It is you ?" 

"Yes." 

"How did you know I was here?" 

"I saw your name in the Visitors' List." 

"Tell me what I can do for you." 

He fell a little back. "George," he faltered, "why this 
<:one ?" 

I refused to admit at once that I was ashamed. "We 
can't stop talking here," I said. "Where are you staying?" 

"Out at St Briac." 

"Then I suppose you're walking back? The last tram 
went long ago." 

"It's only six miles." 

"Then wait here, and I'll walk part of the way with you." 

They were still merrily dancing in the house, but I man- 
aged to get to my own room unseen. I put on an ordinary 
jacket and cap and descended again. He was not where I 
had left him. He had skirted the lauristinus bushes, and 
from a safe distance was gazing into the house. 

Oh, inopportune inopportune and undesirable in the last 
degree ! 

"Ready?" I said. 

Reluctantly he turned away his eyes and followed me past 
the cars. We passed out of the drive and into the dark tree- 
planted lanes of St Enogat. 

A rutty little ruelle runs along the side of St Enogat 
Church and makes a short cut to the high road. We passed 
the church without exchanging a word. At last, where the 
street widened, I broke the silence. 

"So you're Arnaud now ?" 

"Yes," he said in a low voice. 

"The athlete people are talking about?" 

He muttered that there were lots of Arnauds. 

"You're a Frenchman anyway ?" 

"I've got to be something." 

"Are you going to stay a Frenchman ?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 223 

"I don't know yet." 

We continued our walk. The little white-painted Grand 
Stand of the Stade glimmered over the hedge on our right 
when next he spoke. I saw his glance at it. 

"About those athletics, George," he said awkwardly. "I 
was an awful ass. If there's anybody who oughtn't to draw 
attention to himself it's me. But I did it without thinking. 
It was at Ambleteuse. They were running and jumping, and 
I suppose my conceit got the better of me and I just had to 
have a go. But I've cut all that out. It wasn't safe. I 
don't go near a Stade now." 

"Ambleteuse ? Then you did cross Dover-Calais ?" 

He hesitated. "Not exactly Dover-Calais. Thereabouts." 

"Thereabouts? ... I suppose you worked your passage 
and then gave them the slip ?" 

"No. I thought of that, but it was a bit too chancy." 

"Then what did you do ?" 

"Well strictly between ourselves, George it's much bet- 
ter not talked about you see my difficulty but I swam it." 

I stopped dead in my stride. "You what!" 

He spoke apologetically, as if it were something not quite 
creditable. 

"Yes. But I don't want to give you a wrong impression. 
I didn't swim it really fairly. Not like Webb and Burgess. 
I only swam it more or less. For one thing, I hadn't trained, 
you see." 

I recovered my breath. "What do you mean by swim- 
ming it more or less ?" 

His modesty was almost excessive. "It was like this, 
George. You see I rather funked just jumping in at Dover 
and trusting to luck to bring me across. It's a devil of a 
long swim, you know, and besides, I had to have my clothes ; 
couldn't land here with nothing on. So I got hold of a fel- 
low at the Lord Warden, a boatman who'd been with Woolf 
when he just missed it. I swore him to secrecy and all that, 
and fixed things up with him, and he gave me tides and 
times and currents and so on. I told him I was only an 
amateur who didn't want to make a fuss till he'd had a sight- 



224 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

ing-shot, and well, it cost me a tenner. But it saved 
no end of trouble. He and another chap came across with 
me in a little motor-launch. I greased myself and got into 
a mask, and a mile out of Dover I went overboard. Even 
then I didn't swim it fairly, for I was hauled in again after 
about six hours for another greasing. My flesh was quite 
dead half an inch in, you see. I was sick too. If we'd 
been really meant to do that sort of thing we should have 
been given scales, like fishes." 

"Well, and then?" 

"Well that's all. I landed a little this side of Grisnez, 
just as if I'd been out for an ordinary bathe. My chaps 
kept a sharp look-out for the coastguard, and smuggled 
my clothes on to a rock; my English ones, of course; I 
bought this rig in Boulogne. And in three or four days I 
was pretty well all right again. But I don't think I'd have 
the stamina to do it again. ... I say, promise me you won't 
go talking about it, George. I've got to lie absolutely low. I 
frightfully wanted to go to Antwerp, but I simply daren't do 
it. I might be asked for my Army Discharge Papers, or 
something awkward like that." 

So that was how he had solved the passport problem! 
Unable to walk the Straits, he had simply swum them, and 
had saved that night's stoking with coal-dust in his beard! 
And suddenly and inexplicably, I found something of my 
resentment already softening within me. There was a noble 
simplicity about his expedient, and even his voluminous cor- 
duroys and shapeless vareuse did not hide the magnificence 
of his build. And yet he, so magnificent, must forego that 
deep joy in his physical splendour if he was to preserve his 
anonymity. It passed him by as the publisher's belief in 
him had passed him by as, it began to appear to me, all 
else in life must pass him by. Antwerp and the Stades for 
others, but for him, who would have won glorious laurels 
there no. Nay, say he was now what he looked, nineteen 
or twenty. His athletic prime was already far advanced. 
He himself doubted whether he had the stamina to swim the 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 22$ 

Channel again. This alone would have sufficed to win my 
compassion. 

We were now well clear of St Enogat. The night was 
moonless, but the heavens were crowded with stars, and 
seaward the lights burned emerald, diamond, ruby. South- 
ward over the land the eye wandered over the dim fruit 
trees that dotted the fields of sarrasin. A light breeze moved 
in the tops of the crooked poplars, and where the tramway 
leaves the road and takes as it were a dive into a wilderness 
of dark tamarisk and thorn a gramophone played somewhere 
in an unseen cottage. Already an intermittent paleness had 
begun to sweep the sky ahead : a pulse of faint light, four 
seconds of darkness, the pulse again and eleven seconds of 
darkness the Giant of Cap Frehel. 

At least another ten years in less than a month! I kept 
stealing shy glances at him through the limpid darkness. 
Quite literally I felt shy in his presence, for he was both 
known and unknown to me. If he was now nineteen, I saw 
him now at nineteen for the first time in my life grave and 
young, brown and beautiful. His talk had a gentleness and 
a modesty too. No wonder Julia Oliphant had loved him ! 

"Well, go on after you left Ambleteuse," I said by and by. 

"Oh, then I walked, and took train once in a while, till I 
got to Rouen and Caen and on here. Lovely churches all 
the way ; I want to go to Caen again. That took me a fort- 
night. Then I'd a couple of days in St Malo, and well, 
that about accounts for the time." 

"And what are you doing at St Briac?" 

"Sketching. Taken a great fancy to it. I've got a bike 
cheap, and I either walk or ride. I stay at a rather shabby 
little place, but it suits me. I've only a couple of haver- 
sacks and my painting things, so I can be off at a moment's 
notice if if anything crops up." 

Charmingly and sincerely as he spoke, I was yet conscious 
of a reserve. He kept, as it were, to the surface of his 
itinerary, dwelling only on the outer details of his life. And, 
as little by little he repossessed me, I knew that I should 



226 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

have to get behind this reticence. For when and how had 
he lost those ten years? In Trenchard's loft, or since, or 
partly both? Had he, when he had plunged into the sea 
a mile out of Dover, been still twenty-nine, or his present 
age, or some intermediate one? If I was to be of service to 
him it was necessary that I should know all this. 

"Derry," I said, using his name for the first time, "I can't 
walk all the way to St Briac and back again. For one 
thing I'm dressed for a party. Let's sit down." 

There was a warm dry earth-wall with heath and thyme 
and rest-harrow and convolvulus growing on it, and there 
we sat down. Opposite us opened the marshy gap of Le 
Port, and every four seconds, every eleven seconds, the 
aurora-like Light a dozen miles away was faintly redupli- 
cated in the wet mud. All was quiet save for the ceaseless 
rustle of the ragged poplars, the creeping whisper of the 
tide. 

"Now," I quietly ordered him, "I want you to tell me all 
the things you've been leaving out." 

At first I thought he was going to behave like an obdurate 
boy, whose affairs are hugely important just because they 
are his. But he seemed to think better of it. In a hesitat- 
ing voice he said, "What things ?" 

"Well, begin with Trenchard's place on Sunday night, the 
4th of July. What happened then?" 

His answer was hardly audible. "Yes, it was then." 

"How much?" 

"The whole lot." 

"At one go you dropped from twenty-nine to what is it 
now ? Twenty ?" 

"Nineteen or twenty. I don't know. Yes." 

"Then nothing's happened since then?" 

"No at least I'm not quite sure." 

"Not sure?" 

"No. I honestly don't know. There's been a gap some- 
where, something I ought to have come to again, but that 
somehow I've missed altogether. I simply can't account 
for it." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 227 

"Explain, Derry." 

He seemed hardly to trust his voice. "It's the queerest 
thing of all, but I'll swear it on a Bible if you like. You 
know what it was I funked more than anything all those 
beastly rotten things going to happen all over again. . . . 
Don't let's talk about them. They were all the time like 
a nightmare to me, that I was drawing nearer and nearer to 
all the time. I tell you, I'd decided to put myself out rather 
than wallow through all that again. . . . Well, I can only 
tell you I've absolutely skipped it. On my honour I have. 

It's the most unaccountable thing, but " He choked a 

little. 

"But," I said, deeply pondering, "is it possible to skip a 
step any step?" 

"I should have said not," he replied. "Beats me alto- 
gether. I started on a dead straight course back, and I 
fancied I should have to take my fences as I came to them. 
But this kink's come, and somehow I've picked up the thread 
again clear on the other side of it." 

I pondered more gravely still. "Wait a bit. It all hap- 
pened that Sunday night, kink and all ?" 

"Yes." 

"That was the night you left my place with Julia Oli- 
phant, said good-bye to her at Waterloo, and went on to 
Trenchard's ? Did you stick to that programme ?" 

"Yes." 

("And so," something seemed positively to shout within 
me, "much good you've done yourself, Julia Oliphant! 
Much good you're still plotting ! That gap that he's skipped 
altogether that's precisely where you're setting the man- 
traps for him, you and your chiffons and your brown char- 
meuse and your new willow-leaf shoes ! You'd better forget 
Peggy and her garters and get back into your nice quiet tea- 
gowns again!") 

But aloud I resumed : "Then, if nothing's happened since 
that night, that means that you're now stable stationary?" 

His reply gave me a queer shock. It was in the last 
word that the shock lay. "As far as I can make out, sir." 



228 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"So you haven't got to move on from pillar to post and 
one lodging to another?" 

"I've been at St Briac for ten days. And that isn't all," 
he continued earnestly. "I can't say for certain, and per- 
haps it's too soon to talk about it. So this is touching wood. 
But I've got a sort of feeling that if I'm careful and live 
perfectly quietly no excitement and going to bed early, 
you know I might be able to stick just like this for a long 
time. I know no more about that gap than you do, but it 
seems to have cleared the air like a thunderstorm. And when 
I tell you that I really intended to put myself out ... oh, 
how thankful. . . ." But again he checked himself. 

And I too found myself gulping to think that I had so re- 
cently wanted to wash my hands of him. Be rid of him? 
I knew now that not only should I never be rid of him, but 
that never again should I want to. Charming, innocent, 
beautiful and grave ! I cannot tell you, for I do not know, 
what mysterious spiritual thing Julia Oliphant had actually 
wrought upon him. I only knew that all that he had so 
greatly dreaded she had taken upon herself, and that what- 
ever her portion thenceforward was, his was complete ab- 
solution. "One for the Lord, the other for Azazel"; out 
into the wilderness she, the scapegoat, must go ; but on him 
the smell of that fiercest fire of all had not so much as 
passed. . . . And I realised in that moment that thence- 
forward he was my charge yes, my son had I had one. 
Must he stay in France ? Then I must stay with him. Must 
he wander ? Then I must wander too. For the rest of his 
unstable life I must be his staff and support. 

"But I say, sir," he said shyly presently, "about why I 
dug you out to-night. I hope you'll say no straight away 
if you think it's fearful cheek, but the fact is I must have 
some more colours, and well, I've got a little money in 
London, but I can't get at it just for the moment. So I 
really came to ask you if you could lend me five hundred 
francs." 

This was strange. I shot a swift glance at him as he 
lay, a rich dark patch of blouse and corduroys at my side. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 229 

"Where," I asked him as steadily as I could, "is your 
money in London?" 

"I have a little there," he said awkwardly. 

"How much?" 

"I don't quite know, but it's certainly more than five hun- 
dred francs." 

"Where did it come from?" 

Through the clear dark I saw his dusky flush. "I'm 
sorry. I oughtn't to have asked you. Never mind." 

"Derry," I said, greatly moved, "tell me : are you remem- 
bering things quite properly? You surely haven't forgotten 
that / have your money?" 

"Eh ?" he said. The next moment he had tried to cover 
his quick confusion. "Eh? Why, of course. What am I 
thinking of ? It did slip my memory just for the moment ; 
stupid ! I'd got it mixed up somehow with Julia Oliphant. 
I was going to write to her. I remember, of course. You 
sold my furniture. You did sell it, didn't you?" 

"Yes." 

"How much did it fetch?" 

This time it was my turn to evade. "Well, as you say, 
more than five hundred francs. I I haven't totted it up 
yet. I came away in rather a hurry. But there's quite a 
lot, and I can let you have all you want to-morrow." 

"Then that's all right," he said cheerfully. 

But I found it anything but all right. On the contrary, 
it was profoundly disturbing. If he could forget that he 
had authorised me to sell that black oak furniture of his he 
could forget more vital matters. Yet he had remembered 
the furniture when I had urged him. 

"Tell me," I said more quietly, "as simply as you can, 
exactly what you do and what you don't remember." 

"I only forgot it for a moment," he stammered. 

"But you did forget it. Can you explain it?" 

I felt that his mind laboured, struggled ; but I was hardly 
prepared for what came next. 

"Just let me think for a minute. I want to get to the 
bottom of it too. It's a thing I've been watching most care- 



23 o THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

fully, and I give you my word I remembered everything 
absolutely clearly up to a couple of hours ago. I knew all 
about that furniture when I came to that place for you, 
because as I walked along I was trying to work out how 
much it ought to amount to. In fact I wasn't coming to 
borrow at all, but just to ask you for something on account. 
Let me think. I got there at exactly at quarter to ten " 

His fingers were playing with the wild flowers on the 
earth-wall. In and out through the whispering poplars the 
stars peeped. Every four seconds, every eleven seconds, 
four times a minute, rose and fell the Light. I fell to count- 
ing the intervals as I waited for his reply. Diamond, emer- 
ald, ruby, twinkled the lights at sea. . . . 

Then suddenly he sat up and took a deep breath. I saw 
his radiant smile. He faced me with the starlight in his 
eyes. 

"George," he said, "who was that with you in the gar- 
den?" 



IV 

For some seconds the stars seemed to go out of the sky. 
I seemed to be, not sitting with him on that earth-wall by 
Le Port gap, but to be standing again in the drive of Ker 
Annie, with the glare of a touring-car thrown up from the 
ground and Jennie Aird by my side. I seemed to see again 
her parted lips, to hear that soft intake of her breath. And 
his own face seemed to hang again like a beautiful mask 
suspended in the glow. 

And when I had descended from my room again I had 
found him lurking in the bushes, gazing into the lighted 
house. 

Stars in the night above us! Was that to be the next 
thing to happen? 

Had it happened ? 

Evidently something had happened, and had happened 
during the past two hours. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 231 

Then, as I strove to grasp the immense possibility, a deep 
and hapless yearning flooded my heart. The loveliness, the 
loveliness of it had it been possible ! She, with the dreams 
still unrubbed from her opening eyes, he a December prim- 
rose peeping up anew out of the roots of his wrecked and 
fruitless years they would have been matchlessly coupled. 
Had he in truth been my son I could have desired no more 
for him than this. 

Yet why do I say "had it been possible" ? Possible or im- 
possible, something, whether more beautiful or fatal I could 
not say, had in fact happened. Whether to her or not, it 
had happened to him. How else explain that treacherous 
little slip about his money? Up to then his memory had 
not failed him. Reticence he had shown, a youthful un- 
willingness to talk about himself, but not in order to con- 
ceal an impaired faculty. His account of his movements 
during the past month had been slight, but complete enough. 
One gap only the Julia gap he found unaccountable, and 
that was no enigma to me. 

But was he now on the eve of yet another transforma- 
tion? Had one look of eyes into eyes hastened him to an- 
other stage? Absolved he was; was he now to be, not 
merely absolved, but confirmed in all the beauty and liberty 
of that absolution? Consider it as I tried to consider it, 
sitting on that thymy earth-wall while Frehel, like a ghostly 
clock, threw those wavering false dawns across the night. 



Julia, by her ruthless act, had But Jennie had now seen him 

despoiled him of ten years as Julia had seen him more 

of his life. than twenty years ago. 

That act of hers constituted the But should another gap now 

gap that, try as he would, come his heart would under- 

he could not account for. stand. 

In some dark and hidden way He was now beautiful, grave, 

Julia had taken upon herself innocent and unafraid, 
his burden of sin. 



232 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Julia, darkly machinating, was But Jennie, as spotless as he, 
counting on waylaying him knew nothing of machina- 
again, and yet again. tion. 

"He shall know what love is; If his question to me meant 
why should he get nothing anything, a wonder had hap- 
out of his life?" Julia had pened to him not two hours 
passionately cried. ago. 

On his former pilgrimage he But was Love the wonder 
had not known Love. now? 

If so, it was Julia's gift when And it was a gift to Jennie, 
she had restored his inno- 
cence to him. 

But the position was inconceivable, not to be thought of. 
Experience such as never man had possessed lurked behind 
that simulacrum of beauty by my side. Young as he was, 
he was old enough to have been Jennie's father. He was, 
he still remained, the man who had written The Hands of 
Esau and An Ape in Hell, the man for whom I had hunted 
in questionable London haunts, who had known to the full 
the sin and shame of his accumulated years. I knew, Julia 
knew, what contact with his ruinous uniqueness meant. 
How was it possible to permit such an error in nature as to 
allow him to fall in love with Jennie Aird? 

Yet if he had already done so, what was there to do? 

His voice sounded again softly by my side. 

"You haven't told me who that was with you in the gar- 
den," he said. 

"Let's finish with the other things first," I answered. 

"Oh, I'm tired of talking about myself, sir." 

"That's one of them. Why do you sometimes call me 
'sir* and sometimes 'George'?" 

He gave a start. "Have I been doing that?" 

"Didn't you know?" 

I couldn't catch his reply. 

"When you were young I suppose you called older men 
'sir 1 ?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 233 

"Of course." 

"Do you think that at this moment you could repeat, say, 
half a page of The Hands of Esau?" (I had my reasons 
for choosing that book rather than another.) 

"I think so." 

"Will you try?" 

"Shall you know if I'm right ?" 

"Near enough for the purpose, I think." 

He puckered his brows and fixed his eyes on the road. 
He began to recite. The Hands of Esau had been written 
in or before 1912, and the year was now 1920. To remem- 
ber even your own book textually eight years afterwards 
is something of a performance; but he was remembering, 
at nineteen, the words he had written at thirty-eight a 
space of nearly twenty years. I stopped him, satisfied, but 
he himself immediately took up the running. 

"Of course I see what you're after, but I've done all that 
myself. Honour bright, that about the furniture Was the 
first slip of the kind I've made. But I've made one dis- 
covery." 

"What's that?" 

"You're starting at the wrong end. That memory's all 
right. It's the other one I've sometimes wondered 
about." 

"Ah ! The one you call your 'B' Memory ! Do you mean 
it sounds an odd way of putting it, but I suppose it's all 
right do you mean you don't remember what sort of thing 
you'll be doing, say, next year?" 

"Not very clearly, George. Sometimes that seems an 
absolutely unknown adventure. And sometimes it's like 
that queer feeling I expect you know it that you've been 
somewhere before, or done something before, or heard the 
same thing before. It lasts for a second, and then it's gone." 

"Do you think it will continue like that?" 

"I've stopped thinking about it." 

"That page you repeated just now. That wasn't a stock 
page you keep in rehearsal, so to speak ?" 

"No, that was pukka." 



234 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I considered my next question carefully. But there was 
no avoiding it ; it had to be put. I watched him deliberately. 

"Now tell me one other thing. Do you ever remember 
hearing or writing these words : c Je tache de me debrouiller 
de ces sowvenirs^ci?' " 

Poor, poor lad ! He winced as if I had cut at him with a 
lash. He turned over on the bank so that I could not see 
his face. He made no response when I placed my hand on 
his shoulder. My heart ached for him . . . but he had to 
be shown that any question of love between himself and 
Jennie Aird was impossible. 

I shook him. "Do you remember that, Deny?" 

Slowly he sat up on the bank. He turned a set face 
on me. 

"Let me say, Coverham," he said tremulously, "that I 
went through a whole war without seeing as cowardly a 
thing as that done. I will not forgive you." 

And with barely a moment's pause he broke out : 

"Oh, what am I to do, sir, what am I to do? You're 
older and wiser than I am I want help advice " 

That is why I have called this portion of his history "The 
Long Splice." Extremes as wide apart as those met there 
and interwove their strands. Fortunate it was for me that 
they did, for had not that last helpless cry been wrung from 
him I should have been dumb before the bitterness of his 
reproach. Whether memories of sweetness and light were 
failing him or not, those of bitterness and gall remained, 
and it was on this quivering complexity of exposed nerves 
that I had laid the lash. 

And yet simultaneously he was innocent, assoiled, ac- 
quitted. Only the man he had been had groaned under the 
stroke; the other had turned to me for comfort and guid- 
ance and help. And what is a remembered self that we 
should weep for it? What is memory that we should 
writhe? No philosopher has yet ventured to write "I 
remember, therefore I am." Nor does a man remember 
entirely and wholly of his own will. He is his memory's 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 235 

lord when he sets himself to repeat a passage from a book ; 
but who is the master when something leaps upon him with- 
out warning from the past, tears open an old wound, and 
leaves him quivering and bleeding ? . . . Berry's "A" Mem- 
ory now seemed to me to be beside the mark, and it was 
with a sudden joy that I recognised it to be a boon that his 
"B" Memory was dissolving into a golden haze. "An ab- 
solutely unknown adventure," he had said ; and what better, 
more merciful, more beautiful? As the Great Pity hides 
other men's ends from them, so his beginning was to be 
hidden from him. No remembrance of disillusion would mar 
for him the bloom of his fair discoveries. What though 
seas were sailed before if you know it not? Are the gar- 
den's scents less fragrant that you wonder, for a fleeting 
instant, when you have smelt them before? And what of 
the kiss of your mouth when that kiss is both an undoing 
and a re-beginning, the end of one dream but the beginning 
of a lovelier still ? What Julia had done once Jennie would 
do again, and I had only to think of his innocence, his 
beauty and his doom to know, more surely than I ever 
knew anything in my life, that this would a thousand-fold 
transcend the other. 

And supposing that it had already happened, implicit 
in that single revealing look he had still to sleep that night. 

I forget in what words he began to plead his cause. His 
idea was this : 

He conceived himself to be now stationary, or, if moving 
at all, to be doing so hardly perceptibly. Ignorant of the 
connection between Julia's attack and his putting-ofT of the 
years, he knew as little that similar resulta might follow 
what had happened in the garden of Ker Annie that even- 
ing. He would "hang on" by gentle and equable living, 
and to that extent, and if all went well, time might presently 
become to him something more nearly approaching what it 
was to anybody else. He even hazarded a suggestion wild 
enough to make the hair stand up on your head. 

"And if I got as far as that," he mused, his eyes straight 
before him in the night, "I might even it's no madder than 



236 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

anything else I might even start living forward again ; but 
I suppose that's too much to expect," he sighed. 

On this I simply refused to make any comment at all. 

I had told him that Jennie was the daughter of my host. 
He was for making plain sailing of it. His outbreak about 
my cowardice, by the way, had been disregarded by both 
of us. 

"But don't you see, Deny, you're so unimaginably differ- 
ent from anybody and everybody else," I repeated for the 
tenth time. 

"Not if I can stop decently still," was his dogged reply. 

"But you don't know yet that you can." 

"You don't know that I can't, sir." 

I couldn't enter into that. If I had ever intended to do 
so the time for it would have been on that Sunday afternoon 
behind the rugosa roses. 

"You actually mean that you want me to take you to the 
house, and introduce you to Mrs Aird, and open up the way 
to God knows what?" I demanded incredulously. 

"You offered to introduce me to Mrs Aird once before." 

"I offered to introduce the man I then knew." 

"Am I any worse now ?" 

"There's no question of better or worse. A thing can be 
done or it can't, and this can't." 

"Do you mean because of my clothes and my being a 
Frenchman and all that?" 

"I mean, simply, your being Derwent Rose. And I don't 
know that the other things are quite as simple as they look 
either." 

"But I'm English really. And I've got a decent suit of 
English clothes." 

"Do they fit you or did they merely do so once ?" 

At this he became almost cross. "Look here, sir," he said, 
"when everything's said I am me, and I feel pretty sure I 
can stop as I am. Dash it, I am on the blessed map ! I'm 
quite a passable nineteen as fellows go, and the rest's all 
rubbishy detail." Then his manner changed. His voice 
suddenly shook. "You see, I'm I'm I'm in it, George. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 237 

Regularly for it. Just as deep as oh, deep and lovely ! I 
didn't know there was such a thing. There wasn't, not be- 
fore. . . . Not just to speak to her? Not just to see her? 
Not if I promise faithfully not to say a single word about 
it, not even touch her finger? Not if I promise to cut and 
run at the very first sign of a change? Can't you manage 
that, sir? Am I such a rotten outcast as all that? It would 
be quite safe I wouldn't say a word anybody couldn't hear 
I'd promise on my soul I'd promise " 

I had got up and begun to pace agitatedly back and forth. 
How could I have him at the Airds' and yet how resist his 
supplication? How refuse what would have been my very 
heart's desire for him yet how grant it to the ruin of her 
young life as well as of his? I felt his eyes on my face. 
He knew, the rascal, that he had moved me, and was greed- 
ily looking for the faintest hint of my yielding. Yet the im- 
possibility! ... I stopped before him. 

"There's one thing that settles it if nothing else did," I 
said gently. "Miss Aird's probably off in a couple of days." 

It was, of course, a flagrant invention. I had thought of 
it on the spur of the moment. But it could be made true if 
necessary, I thought. He stared at me blankly. 

"Off! Did you say off?" 

"Right away. And it's now nearly two o'clock, and I 
want you to make me a promise before I leave you." 

"Off!" he repeated stupidly, as if he had imagined her 
fixed for all eternity as he had seen her in that moment 
by the car. 

"I'll bring your money round to-morrow at ten o'clock. 
I want you to promise to wait in your room for me till 
then." 

"Where is she going?" 

"Will you wait in your room till I come ?" 

"Back to England?" 

"I don't know. Will you wait for me in your room ?" 

"Tell me one other thing, sir," he pleaded; "just her 
name " 

"Her name's Jennie." 



238 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

He received it as if it had been a costly gift. "Jennie, 
Jennie " he breathed softly. 

"You'll wait forme?" 

"Of course, sir. Thank you, George." 

"Then I'll say " 

But I could not get out the words "Good night." 

How did I know what the night was going to be for him ? 

For it happened in the night. . . . 

I left him standing by the earth-wall, with the lights still 
twinkling at sea and the low glare of Frehel in the sky 
behind him. Four seconds, eleven seconds, four times a 
minute 

"Jennie !" I heard his hushed, rapt voice as I turned away. 



V 

"Le Por-r-rt ! Le Por-r-rt 1" 

Only an old woman with white streamers and a basket 
descended from the tram, but instinctively I turned my 
head to look at the flowery bank on which I had sat so few 
hours before. It was a sparkling morning, with an intense 
blue sky, high white clouds and singing larks. The fields 
of flowering sarrasin were white, cream, pink, deep russet; 
and far away the grey-green boscage receded into misty 
blue, unbroken by walls or fences, that contradictory com- 
munal undulation of a country where individualism is at its 
most intense, holdings small, and a ditch or a bank you 
could stride over fencing enough. But I was too anxious 
to be able to admire. At the best it looked as if I should 
have to assume complete responsibility for him and so cut my 
visit to the Airds abruptly short. At the worst but I put 
the worst from me. 

"Allez! Roulez!" 

With the sound of a tank going into action the tram clat- 
tered forward to St Lunaire. 

Up the steep street, and a swerve past the acres of tennis- 
courts that had once been grass. The huge six-acre cage 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 239 

was already full of players, and I thought of Jennie Aird. 
Then past the magazins and the long cafe, with half-clad 
young Frenchmen punting a ball and walking on their hands 
in the strip of meadow opposite. The Casino, the hotels, 
and then a steep planted avenue that seemed to end in the 
air. Then a rush and another swerve, and out on to the 
wide expanse of tussocky links, grey and fawn sandhills, 
and turf gemmed with a myriad tiny flowers. 

His hotel was within a biscuit's-toss of the terminus. It 
stood by the roadside, and its front consisted of a built-out 
structure of glass, within which a couple of Breton girls 
with tight hair, string-soled shoes, and the physique of 
middle-weight boxers, were laying a do'zen small tables for 
dejeuner. A lad dressed precisely as Deny had been 
dressed was delivering lifebuoys of bread, and knives clat- 
tered in baskets, and two-foot-high stacks of coloured 
plates were being carried in. 

"M'sieu* Arnaud?" I inquired of one of the string-slip- 
pered Amazons. 

"M'sieu' n'est pas descendu si vour voulez monter au 
deuxieme, M'sieu'." 

She indicated a way through the back salon that had once 
been the street frontage. Beyond yawned a cavernous 
kitchen, the blacker because of its opening on to a daz- 
zlingly green back yard. Between the two rose a staircase, 
which a strapping youth was polishing with a mop on his 
foot. I mounted and gained the deuxieme. Then, outside 
the closed door, I stopped with a thumping heart. 

But it was no good hesitating. I pulled myself together 
and knocked. 

" trezf* called a clear voice. 

I thanked God, pushed and entered. 

His head was bent over his colour-box. On a piece of 
paper he appeared to be making a list of the colours to be 
replenished. He looked smilingly up, and our eyes met. 

Clear eyes, grave sweet mouth, undoubting smile 

And unchanged. The night had passed, and nothing per- 
ceptible had happened. I crossed to the window. Now 



240 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

that all was well, I dare to admit to myself that I had been 
prepared to find him dead. If he was right in fixing his 
climacteric at sixteen he might well have been dead. 

But there he was, bending over his colour-box and mur- 
muring "Cobalt I seem to eat cobalt raw sienna orange 
vermilion " 

Presently I spoke, still from the window. 

"Well, I don't know anything about downstairs, but 
you've a gorgeous view up here." 

"Isn't it?" he said. "Grows on you. At first I thought 
it rather scrappy, a little bit of everything, and I wish they'd 
put a bomb under that silly chateau-place; but it grows on 
you. Inland's the country though. Orange vermilion, pale 
cadmium, and a double go of cobalt " 

I looked round his room. The smell of oil-colours clung 
about it, but it was exquisitely tidy and simple. Its walls 
were covered with a yellowish striped paper, its ceiling 
beams were moulded, its herring-boned parquet floor shone. 
A single mat lay by the side of his ornate wooden bedstead, 
which, with the little night cupboard by it, a small table at 
the window, and a single upholstered chair, was the only 
furniture in the room. The door-knob was of glass, and 
the lace curtains had been draped back over the open leaves 
of the window. From a flimsy little hat-rack hung his two 
haversacks. His canvases apparently were in the cupboard 
that was sunk into the wall. 

"Well," he said, putting his list of colours into his pocket, 
"it seems rather a rum idea bringing you right out here 
when I've got to go into Dinard myself. Can I have the 
money, George?" 

I counted it out. 

"And oh, by the way I know you won't mind but if 
you'd talk French when there's anybody about it makes 
things a bit simpler " 

Here I began to be aware of the imminence of another 
problem. I don't mean the talking French; I mean the 
whole problem of his company. He was going into Dinard 
to buy colours, and I also was returning to Dinard. The 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

natural thing was that we should go together. I could 
hardly constitute myself his guardian and not be seen about 
with him bargain with him that he only came to me or I 
to him like Nicodemus, by night. He seemed to take all 
this cheerfully for granted. 

But whither would it presently lead? Dinard was, in a 
word, the world that world in which he had no place. 
Everybody knew scores of people in Dinard, and Madge 
Aird hundreds. Tennis, tea, the shops, the plage all was 
public, familiar, open in the last degree. Within a couple 
of days, on the strength of being seen twice or thrice with 
me, he would be exchanging bows and smiles and "Bon- 
jours" with goodness knows who. 

"Well, come along," I said in a sort of daze. "But I don't 
know that I feel like talking much, either in French or 
English. You're a devil of a fellow for keeping your 
friends guessing, Monsieur Arnaud. You're still Monsieur 
Arnaud, I suppose?" 

"How can I change it?" he replied gravely. 

Of course he couldn't change it. Arnaud he must remain 
until he became too young to be Arnaud any longer. 

On the returning tram I addressed myself somewhat as 
follows : 

"George Coverham, this can't go on. You've got to make 
up your mind one way or the other. If you don't he'll make 
it up for you. His is already made up. He sees no reason 
why he shouldn't carry on. He's either right or wrong. 
Well, suppose for a moment that he's right ? What then ? 

"You know what you were prepared for when you went 
up those stairs of his. You know you had to put your hand 
up three times before you dared knock. Well, everything 
was all right; nothing had happened. If he's really sud- 
denly and desperately in love it ought to have happened, 
but anyway it didn't. That means, in plain English, that 
he knows more about himself than you do. 

"And he thinks he can stay as he is. Suppose he can? 
Suppose even that maddest conjecture of all is true, and 
that he actually may re-become normal and live out his life 



242 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

like everybody else? It wouldn't be any more wonderful 
than the rest. So what's the obvious thing to do? Why, 
simply to take him as he is as long as he is it. That's all 
he's asking you. And he's promised to clear out at the very 
first hint of another transformation. In fact he's got to. 
It's in the very nature of the case. 

"Look at him on the seat opposite to you there, between 
those two bare-headed young women. Those two Breton 
girls may keep their four handsome Breton eyes straight 
before them, but they're conscious of every moment of his 
presence. Who wouldn't be? He's a dream of beauty. 
And remember how he pleaded with you last night. Can't 
you hear him still? 'Only to see her, only to talk to her: 
can't you manage that, sir ? Can't you, George ?' Was ever 
gratitude more touching and absurd than when you merely 
told him her name 'Jennie!' Why shouldn't he have the 
love now he missed before? Julia Oliphant didn't stop to 
think twice about it. Who made you Rhadamanthus, 
George Coverham? . . . Anyway, you've got to make up 
your mind." 

I told myself all this, and more ; but I cannot say I con- 
vinced myself. Indeed, in the face of past experience, I 
made the mistake of once more thinking I had a choice in 
the matter. I thought that I possessed him, and not he me. 
So I floundered among details, little practical details, such 
as talking French to him and being seen about Dinard with 
him. I recalled how already Madge Aird had asked whether 
he had a brother. I seemed to see Alec's face when he was 
told that a Frenchman had fallen in love with his daughter, 
my own as I explained that the Frenchman was not really 
a Frenchman, and Alec's again as he asked me what the 
devil I meant. Then there was his name Arnaud. That 
again landed us straight into a dilemma. He couldn't change 
it, must stop Arnaud; but as Arnaud the athlete he had 
been seen at Ambleteuse. The brother of some young 
Rugby or young Charterhouse at that moment in Dinard 
(the words seemed to detach themselves from the noisy 
babble of a tea-shop) had seen him. He might be recog- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 243 

nised here; people do look twice at a casual stranger who 
strolls into a Stade, chucks off his coat, and in his walking 
boots does something like level time. He looked it, too, 
every inch of him. . . . And whispers might be flying round 
Dover too. The straits are not very wide, and men who can 
swim them do not come down with every shower of rain. 
. . . Oh, the whole thing bristled with risks. I counted a 
hundred of them while the tram rolled in its cloud of filthy 
smoke past La Gueriplais, La Fourberie, St Enogat, the 
Rue de la Gare. . . . 

"Devoiturons," he said suddenly, touching my knee. 

He had taken matters into his own hands even while I 
had mused. I had intended to postpone my decision by 
dropping off at St Enogat; now we were at the corner of 
the Boulevard Feart. "Down we get!" We! Apparently 
"we" could get to "our" colour shop without making the 
circuit of the rest of the town. I will not swear that I saw 
a momentary twinkle of mischief in his eyes. I was stand- 
ing in the middle of the road looking after the tram, which 
was already fifty yards away. 

Together a middle-aged English gentleman in a neat 
lounge suit and a splendid young specimen of French man- 
hood in blouse and corduroys turned into the Boulevard 
Feart. 

There would still have been time to retrieve my inde- 
cision. The Boulevard, approached from that end of the 
town, is not nearly so frequented as the Rue Levavasseur 
and the quarter near the Casino. It was, in fact, particu- 
larly quiet. But every step we took under the shady limes, 
past the white- fagaded houses and gardens vermilion with 
geraniums and bluer than the sky with lobelia, brought us 
nearer to that crowded busy world in which he held so 
singular a place. Or I could have left him at the corner of 
the Rue Jacques Cartier and made my escape by way of the 
Rue St Enogat. But what then? If I shook him off to-day 
the question would be to face again to-morrow. . . . Ker 
Yvonne, Ker Maria, Ker Loic ... the shuttered villas 
slipped past us. 



244 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Then, "Deny," I said in desperation, "I'm at my wits' 
end about you. I haven't the faintest idea what I ought 
to do." 

"It's jolly just being with you," he said, looking straight 
ahead. 

"Yes. It's other people who're the difficulty." 

I had the same answer as before. "As long as I sit 
tight, George?" he said mildly. 

"Even then. You said yourself that you were both the 
most public and the most private man alive." 

"Ah, but that was when I was slipping about all over the 
place. Up here's our shop." 

"But even if you're stationary you're just as much an 
anomaly. Nobody except you stops at one age." 

"Well, it's a step in the right direction so to speak. At 
any rate it isn't going back." 

"I wish I knew how you knew that." 

"I wish I could tell you, old fellow," he placidly replied. 

"Look here," I said abruptly. "There's just one possible 
way out, but I rather doubt whether you'd agree to it. I 
mean about what you wanted me to do last night. Would 
you allow me to tell the whole thing to my friends the Airds 
and leave the decision to them?" 

Quickly, very quickly, he shook his head. "No, I'm afraid 
I couldn't do that." 

"But is anything else fair and right?" 

"If I stop as I am?" 

"In any case." 

"They wouldn't believe you." 

"I think Mrs Aird might believe me." 

He gave a short laugh. "She can swallow a good deal if 
she can swallow that !" 

"She's a very observant woman. She said one thing that 
perhaps I ought to tell you." 

"What?" he asked with sudden curiosity. 

"She saw you one day in South Kensington." 

"Well?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 245 

"She'd also had a good look at you that day at the Lyon- 
nesse Club." 

"Well?" 

"She asked me whether Derwent Rose had a brother." 

"Et vous avez repondu?" 

"J'ai dit que non." 

"C'etait la figure? La taille?" 

"Le tout ensemble." 

"Elle avait des conjectures? Pas possible!" 

"Comme vous le dites, pas possible; mais s'ils poussent 
sur le Rosier trop de boutons " 

"II n'y-en poussera plus," he laughed ; and the little knot 
of French people passed us by. 

He made light of my recital. I heard his quiet chuckle. 
Then suddenly I realised that we were at the corner of the 
Rue Levavasseur, outside the Hotel de Provenge. 

"Look here, haven't we passed your shop?" I said. 

"Eh? Have we? By Jove, so we have. That's the 
charm of your conversation, George." 

"Then hadn't we better go back?" 

"Of course we must; it's the only colour shop in the place. 
But just step across the road now that we are here. I want 
some tooth-powder. And some envelopes at the Bazaar 
there. Must have some run right out yesterday." 

We crossed to a chemist's, but it appeared that he usually 
went to a chemist's a little farther down the street. There 
he made his purchases, and once more we came out into the 
street. 

"Now I want some bootlaces," he said. "You see, I 
always load up when I come into Dinard. Saves time, not 
to speak of the tram-fare." 

It was approaching a brilliant midday, and from the Ten- 
nis Club, the shops, the confectioners, and the cafes, people 
were beginning to press to their various hotels and villas to 
lunch. In another half-hour the street would be half empty, 
but now it was at its gayest with bright blazers, gaudy cos- 
tumes, sleek heads, sea-browned faces. One saw laughing, 



246 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

turning heads, caught snatches of appointments "A ce 
soir" "Don't forget, Blanche" "Number Four at two- 
thirty" "You coming our way, Suzette?" 

Suddenly my arm was seized, and M. Arnaud took a 
quick step forward. 

"Thees ou-ay," he said laughingly, "des enveloppes " 

I was dragged into the Bazaar. 

Then, but too late, I wondered what his so pressing need 
of envelopes was. "Must have some ran right out yester- 
day!" Who were his correspondents? Of what did his 
letter-bag consist? Letters, he! A passport and a birth- 
certificate would have been more to the point; a permis de 
sejour and his Army Discharge Papers would have been 
more to the point. And most to the point of all was that 
the rascal had completely hoodwinked me. 

For, standing there among hoops and grace-sticks, string 
shoes and cards of bijouterie, caoutchouc bathing-caps and 
all the one- franc-fifty fal-lals of the Bazaar, alone and for 
the moment with her back to us, was Jennie Aird. 



VI 

This time if he wanted French he had it off the ice. 

"Touche et merci, Monsieur. Bonjour." 

I bowed, stepped forward, and placed myself between 
him and Jennie. I touched her elbow. 

"I saw you come in. Are you nearly ready? We shall 
be late." 

I was the angrier that it was with myself that I was 
chiefly angry. Jennie, giving me only the tail of her glance, 
turned to her choice of a bathing-cap again the yellow 
one or the green one. My back was towards Rose, but I 
heard a saleswoman step up to him. 

"Rien, merci j 'attends M'sieur," he said. 

Jennie too heard, and turned. 

There was no atmosphere of soft and factitious half- 
illumination now. This was the full blaze of a perfect 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 247 

August midday, that flooded the shop with sunshine and 
made a dazzle of Jennie's little white hat with the cord 
about it, of the burnished hair beneath. The sleeves of her 
white frock were cut short above the dimple of her elbow, 
the tiny blue ribbon across her shoulders peeped through. 
She in her sunny white, he in black vareuse and corduroys 
brown as a wintry coppice, again stood looking one at the 
other. 

And for the second time within the course of a sun I 
saw the world begin anew, as it begins anew for some he, 
for some she, with every moment that passes. For the 
beginning of the cradle is not the real beginning. That is 
only the end of the darkness of forebeing that is piecced 
with a woman's pang. That is still an uneasy slumber, yea, 
even though it weakly smile, and by and by stumble over 
its syllables, and stumble over its own uncertain feet, and 
walk, and spell, and use a tennis-racket. It is incomplete, 
and will never be complete in itself. It is completed in 
that moment when its eyes open on other eyes, and the won- 
der kindles there, and the ground underfoot is forgotten, 
and the surrounding sunlight is forgotten, and nothing is 
remembered except that those eyes have found their other- 
own eyes, and, though they lose them again in that same 
instant, never to see them again, will remember them in the 
hour when the shadow closes over all. That, that re-begins 
the cycle, is our real beginning. It was that which, in that 
tawdry Bazaar, turned the golden sunlight to a nimbus 
about us. 

Again I touched her. 

"The yellow one, is it ? Let me put it in my pocket." 

I had secured her arm. I picked up for her the horrible 
fifty-centime notes of her change. She had dropped her 
eyes, and her face was as rich-coloured as her lips, her lips 
a pulpy quiver. I felt the touch of Berry's hand on my 
sleeve, but I disregarded it. I felt bitterly towards him. 

"Come along, my dear," I said; and I pushed her past 
him. 

Yet if, as he had said, he wished merely to see her, merely 



248 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

to speak with her, he had half his wish in that moment. 
Her left arm was in my right one, I between her and him. 
Suddenly, blush or no blush, she lifted her head. Behind 
me, she looked full at him. For two, three paces her head 
and shoulders continued to turn. I set my lips and looked 
straight ahead. 

Then her head dropped again. Her teeth caught at her 
upper lip. For a moment she was a limp weight on my arm. 
We left the shop. 

I saw his face at the window as we passed. Whether 
or not he stepped to the door to watch us out of sight I 
do not know. 

I say that it was with myself that I was chiefly angry; 
but I have never found that a particularly mollifying re- 
flection. As I have seen a man get rid of an undesired 
guest by blandly pressing him to stay but leading him 
gently by the arm all the time nearer to the door, so our 
young man had used me. I had been piloted here, there, in 
whichever direction he had wished. And as for Jennie's 
long backward look and turn of the head . . . well, it 
seemed to me that the thing might now be regarded as done. 
It did not need me to murmur "Jennie, this is M. Arnaud 
Miss Aird." The back door into Alec Aird's jealously- 
guarded house was set ajar, and I, the only one who could 
have watched it, had failed to do so. I frowned, watching 
her white-clad feet moving on the sunny pavement. I 
avoided looking at her face. I knew that she equally avoided 
looking at mine. 

Of one thing I was perfectly sure: she would not of her 
own accord speak of the young man we had just left. Per- 
haps it was that there are some things which, unless you 
out with them at once, become more and more difficult with 
every moment that passes. Many a close secret was not a 
secret at all in the beginning ; it merely became one. There- 
fore she was already showing obstinacy. She knew that I 
knew about that look. She had looked openly, deliberately, 
as careless of my presence as if I had not been there. And 
in that critical moment it was a toss-up what my relations 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 249 

with my friend's seventeen-years-old daughter were to be. 
She might, suddenly and swiftly, break into an emotional 
confession. On the other hand she might thenceforward 
bear me an unspoken grudge that I knew anything about her 
affairs at all. 

I noticed that she carried no tennis racket. I therefore 
asked her, as we crossed the emptying Place du Commerce, 
whether she had left it at the Club. 

"No," she said. 

"Haven't you been playing this morning?" 

"No." 

"Too tired after the party last night?" 

"No." 

"I was wondering but I suppose you've far more amus- 
ing things to do than to come for a walk with me this after- 
noon." 

In those few words the whole situation trembled as in a 
balance. If she said Yes, much might follow; if No, then 
resentment would be my portion. 

We continued to ascend the high-walled street, past tall 
garden gates and notice-boards "A Vendre," "Locations," 
"Agence Boutin." We passed Beausejour, Primavera, Les 
Cyclamens. . . . 

Then for the first time she looked sideways at me. 

"I should like to," she said. 

I was still angry with myself and him. He was probably 
right in refusing the only definite suggestion I had found 
to make, namely, that he should permit me to tell my host 
and hostess the whole story. But if his alternative was to 
lie in wait for her in the streets and shops of a French 
summer resort and to hang about the open windows of the 
house at night, I felt very strongly about it. He was going 
to be wily and masterful, was he? He, swaying on a tight- 
rope of time, was going to claim the treatment of a normal 
man? Well, that remained to be seen. The cold shoulder 
for a day or two might bring him to a more reasonable 
view. Anyway, after our encounter in the Bazaar, he could 
hardly pretend not to know my mind. 



250 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

And yet (I asked myself as my anger began to wear itself 
out), who can know the mind of a man who does not know 
his own? More, when was anything that mattered ever 
settled by chop-logic of the sort that set my head spinning? 
Why, his brilliant beauty alone laughed to nothing all my 
attempts to get him off my mind. And suddenly my mind 
flashed back, back, it seemed interminable years back. There 
sprang up in my memory a lecture I had once attended at 
the Society of Arts, a cutting I had taken from an article 
in The Times. 

"Human beings," said the article, "differ not only in the 
knowledge they have acquired, but in their dower of in- 
telligence or natural ability. The latter has a maximum 
for each individual, attained early in life. Sixteen years 
has usually been taken as the age at which, even in those 
best endowed, the limit of intelligence has been reached." 

Say that this was so ; whither did it now lead ? 

A staggering vista to open before a middle-aged-to-elderly 
gentleman like myself, on his way to luncheon at a riant 
holiday villa with a moody and beautiful young creature of 
seventeen by his side! 

For it seemed to me to lead like a ray straight into the 
blinding heart of the Sun of Life. The mind blinked in its 
attempt to follow it; I believe I actually passed my hand 
over my eyes as if to shut out a physical dazzling. I have 
said a little, a very little, about Derwent Rose's books ; but 
how if they, foursquare and strongly-built as they were, 
were merely external things, well enough in their way, but 
clogged in the gross and unwieldy medium through which 
his central fire and power torturedly struggled? How if a 
more essential beauty should presently appear, free of these 
trammels of process, independent of acquirement and pain- 
ful lore, dissociated from performance shining, self-suffi- 
cient, its mere existence its own justification and law? 
"Every morning of my life," he had once said, "I've tried 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 251 

to wake up as if that was the first day of the world/' Was 
he now on the way to his fulfilment? Was that first morn- 
ing actually about to dawn for him? Was an early sun 
about to rise on a creature not ready-made, not pre-in- 
structed, unfettered by the prejudice of a single word, but 
man given to all understanding, man at the moment of his 
perfection, man liberated, and without a name or foothold 
in the human world? 

A pretty speculation, I say, for a humdrum old gentle- 
man going home to luncheon ! 

Luncheon over, I took a liqueur with Alec in the pergola. 
The lattice of shadow flecked the ascending smoke from hid 
pipe. 

"By the way, what became of you last night? You didn't 
go on to the Casino, did you ?" he said. 

"No. I took a walk." 

"I heard you come in. The others had only just gone to 
bed. And of course Jennie was dog-tired and went upstairs 
with a headache." 

"Well, she's coming for a walk with me this afternoon." 

"Then for goodness' sake take her somewhere quiet. It 
isn't my idea of a holiday that you have to take a rest-cure 
after it." 

I laughed. "I'll look after her. But when I'm with 
Jennie I like as many people as possible to see me with 
Jennie." 

"Then tell her that and shake her out of herself, you old 
humbug. Hanged if I'd trust her with you if you were a 
few years younger." 

"You'll have to trust her with somebody presently." 

"Plenty of time for that yet," Alec grunted. "I've got 
my eye on it all right. . . . Well, if you're going out I'm 
going to have forty of the best. Watch me fade away " 

He proceeded to "fade away," while the shadows crept 
over the ascending smoke from his pipe on the table. 

On this occasion, however, I was content to forego my 
pride in being seen with Jennie by my side. Just a quiet 



252 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

cliff-path not too far away would do. There is much to be 
said for a quiet cliff-path when a young woman feels the 
first sweet trouble at her heart. 

I left the completely faded-away Alec as I heard her step 
at the door of the house. She looked me straight in the 
eyes, as if it would be at my peril did I notice anything the 
matter with her own pebble-grey ones. We passed out, 
took the steep secluded lane towards the tea-cabin above St 
Enogat plage, and then descended the hewn steps to the 
shore. It is a tiny plage, remarkably steep, bordered with 
villas that resemble their own bathing-tents, and with a 
path that winds up the rocks beyond. We did not speak as 
we crossed the plage and began to climb. 

Along that deeply indented coast you do a lot of walking 
for the distance forrarder you get, and also a good deal of 
up-and-down round rocky gulfs with the bottle-green water 
heaving lazily below. But over the seaward walls of villa 
and chateau peep valerian and fig, and the path is coral- 
sprinkled with pimpernel and enamelled with convolvulus 
and borage and the hosts of smaller flowers. Away ahead 
the demi-tower of a sea-mark rose chalk-white against the 
deep blue, with the airy point of St Lunaire beyond. We 
approached a small field of marguerites, so eagerly open 
to the afternoon sun that at a short distance they were not 
white at all, but pale honey-yellow with the offering of their 
golden hearts. Poppies flamed among them, and the cigales 
crackled like ceaselessly-running insect machinery. From 
the cliff's foot came the lazy breaking of the waves. That, 
I thought, was quite a pleasant place. Even Alec would 
have approved of it. We sat down between the staring mar- 
guerites and the sea. 

I do not wish to speak of Jennie in a fatherly or avuncu- 
lar manner. One had better not have been born than not 
be simple with the heart of a young girl. At the faintest 
trace of a smile it will close against you for ever, and 
wonder follows wonder so quickly over it that it will be a 
long time before you get your second chance. So do not 
tell it that it will think differently about things to-morrow. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 253 

It is you who will think differently to-morrow if you do. 
I say in all sincerity that, in that long pause between my 
asking Jennie to come for a walk with me and her ac- 
ceptance, I had felt a suspense as real as any I ever felt. If 
that pivotal moment on which the oncoming generation 
turns is not to be gravely considered, I know of no other 
moment that need greatly trouble us. 

So I listened to the treble of the cigales and the soft deep 
bass of the sea, and the silence continued between us. She 
picked and nibbled florets of clover, her eyes far away. 
Her gaze wandered to butterflies, to a lizard that disap- 
peared with a glint of bronze into a cranny, to a ladybird 
that alighted on her forearm. 

Then the largest tear I have ever seen brimmed, trickled 
and dropped. 

On leaving the house she had dared me to notice anything 
about her eyes; but it is another matter when a tear so 
engulfs a ladybird that it is a question whether the crea- 
ture's pretty wing-cases will ever be the same again. I had 
to speak after that. 

"Cheer up, Jennie," I said softly. 

She gulped. "Why were you so horrid and cross with 
him!" 

"This morning in the shop?" 

"Yes." 

"Well ... I fancied he'd played me rather a mean trick." 

"He didn't !" she flashed. "I'm sure he wouldn't do any- 
thing mean !" 

"Then say a trick I didn't expect from him." 

"I heard him tell the woman in the shop he was waiting 
for you, and and you walked straight past him without 
looking at him !" 

"It might have been better if you'd done the same, Jennie." 

"Did he come to fetch you out last night ?" 

"I took him out." 

"Is he the the Monsieur Arnaud the maid meant ?" 

"That's the name he goes by." 

"Isn't it his name?" 



254 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"I suppose it is." 

"Then why do you say it like that? ... I want you to 
tell me about him, Uncle George, please," she ordered me. 

I too wanted to do that; but I found it anything but 
simple. I might have told her that he was simply a vagrant, 
just a fellow who wandered about sketching, here to-day 
and gone to-morrow. That would have been perfectly true. 
But it would have been equally untrue. That was no pic- 
ture of Derry. She had seen a far, far truer picture of 
him when she had turned her head towards him in the toy- 
shop. 

"Well, of course that is why I asked you to come for a 
walk this afternoon, Jennie," I said slowly. "As a matter 
of fact M'sieur Arnaud's had a very curious experience that 
I can't very well tell you about. The result of this is that 
he's a rather odd sort of person to know. In fact he's 
better not known. He wanted me to introduce him to your 
mother, and I told him I'd rather not do so. Anyway he's 
going away soon." 

"That doesn't sound like a horrid sort of person," she 
commented. "Is that why he came last night to be intro- 
duced to mother ?" 

"No, he came for something quite different last night." 

"What?" 

Here again I might have answered with a certain appear- 
ance of truth that he had come for money, though it was 
his own money ; but that too would be to misrepresent him. 
The cigales crackled loudly. I suppose the ladybird was 
all right again, for it was nowhere to be seen. I mused, 
and then turned to her. 

"You said yesterday that you wished you were back in 
England, Jennie," I said. "How would you like to come 
and stay with me in Surrey for a bit?" 

"No thank you, Uncle George. Thank you very much." 

"It's quite jolly there in its way, and I dare say I could 
get somebody quite nice to be with you." 

"I should like to some day, of course," she said, "but not 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 255 

just now, if you don't think it horrid of me." And she 
added, "I love being here." 

"Since yesterday?" 

She did not reply. 

Of course I had not expected for a moment that she 
would say Yes, even had I made up my own mind to aban- 
don Derry to his fate, which I had not done. Yet a thought 
flashed into my mind. Were I to return to England, taking 
Jennie with me, Derry would still not be unlooked-after. 
The moment I left, Julia Oliphant, I felt certain, would fly 
to his side. And if Jennie would not come with me, what 
would the impossible combination be then? . . . My half- 
formed thought became a sudden picture, a contrast, vivid 
and arresting, between two women the one who experi- 
mented with her dress and wanted to know what a cocktail 
tasted like, the other this fragrant hawthorn-bough by my 
side. And between the two rose his grave and sunbrowned 
face. . . . 

I stared at my picture, fascinated. The three of them 
together! Exquisite and horrible complication! Suppose 
it should ever come to that ! 

Then the picture vanished, and I saw the translucent un- 
twinkling sea. The roofs of distant St Lunaire made a 
pale cluster of brightness. The wind rippled the edges of 
the satiny poppies. 

All at once she clutched my sleeve with both her hands 
and buried her face against it. It broke, the storm that had 
been pent up for nearly twenty hours. As the marguerites 
exposed their yearning golden hearts, so she kept nothing 
back, laid bare her own heart to the sun that was its lord. 

"Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do ! I can't bear it ; it's 
too too oh, tell me what to do, Uncle George! I know 
he's my darling ! I don't want to live without him ! If he 
goes away I don't know what will happen! It's all since 
yesterday I didn't sleep a wink I went out into the garden 
when they'd all gone and stood in the same place. Then I 
heard father moving about and hid. . . . And then this 



256 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

morning when you were horrid to him no, you weren't 
horrid, dear Uncle George I know it's all a stupid mis- 
take I love him! I don't care if he doesn't speak a word 
of English. I want him here now ! I want to be with him ! 
Please, please introduce him to mother. She loves French 
people. And he did ask you to, so he can't be horrid. I'm 
sure he didn't mean to play you a mean trick. There must 
be a mistake. I'm sure he can explain if you'll let him. 
Dear, dear Uncle George do, do !" 

I put my hand on her hat, which was as much of her as I 
could see. 

. "Don't look at me, please I don't want to move for just 
a minute." 

"As long as you like, my dear/' 

"Oh, I'll do anything if you only will! Where is he 
staying? I never saw him in Dinard before. Where is he 
staying? Does he live here all the time? I could see him 
if you came too, couldn't I ? And I don't care what sort of 
clothes he wears . . . do, do, Uncle George!" 

Then she straightened herself, and looked full at me 
through her flooded eyes. She was suddenly imperious. 

"Now tell me something else, please. When you went 
off with him last night. Did he say anything about me?" 

Perhaps I did not lie with sufficient promptitude. "About 
you ? No, of course not." 

She looked accusingly at me ; she caught her breath. 

"Oh, how can you say that ! I don't believe it ! He did !" 

"But he couldn't even see you in the dark !" 

"It wasn't dark it wasn't a bit dark it was quite light 
enough to see anybody you saw him " 

"Well, he's going away, and there's an end of it." 

Like a rainbow was the light that woke in her lately 
showering eyes. Up went the soft lip, out peeped the pearls. 
Back, back from their golden hearts lay the petals of .the 
marguerites. 

"If," she said with extreme slowness, "if he told you he 
was going away, that must have been last night." 

I was dumb. I saw her effort to close her inner eyes on 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 257 

the light that broke on them, lest a wonder on a wonder 
should prove more than she could bear. 

"That was last night!" the triumphant words rang out. 

I suppose there is no such thing as one half of a miracle 
without the other 

"That was last night, and there hadn't been a this morn- 
ing then, and he hadn't seen me when I was buying my 
bathing-cap, and if he said he was going away he's changed 
his mind and he isn't going away at all ! Neither of us is 
going away! Oh-h-h!" (That "Oh" echoes in my heart 
still.) "He isn't even thinking of going now! Because we 
both know now we knew in the shop and he loves me 
too!" 

Just to see one another just to speak to one another 
that was all they asked of me. 



PART II 
THE EVEN KEEL 



That evening I sat in Ker Annie, alone. Alec and Madge 
had gone out for an after-dinner walk, taking a silent Jennie 
with them. Silent too had been our return along the cliff- 
tops that afternoon. Whether she already regretted having 
opened her heart to me I could not tell. 

I sat at the open window of the salon, looking out over the 
sea that showed pale milky green against the heavy sunset 
bank. Inside the room Ganymede and the Eagle had been 
lighted, and my shadow streamed down the steps and was 
lost in the darkening garden. It was not a cold evening, 
and yet I felt a little cold. No fire was laid behind the 
drawn-down iron shutter where Alec threw his crumpled 
tobacco packets, and it was hardly worth while troubling 
a maid. I closed the window, crossed to the shuttered 
fireplace, and sat down in a striped tapestried chair. 

What had become of my illusion that certain things could 
not exist in this clear atmosphere of Northern France? 
No man with two memories bathe in that milky green sea I 
had just shut out? But he had swum it. No man of forty- 
five masquerade as a quarter of a century younger in this 
broomy, thymy air ? But here he was. ... I looked round 
the little salon, as if its spurious gaiety had misled me. 
Across the varnished ceiling the lamp-chains threw strag- 
gling spider's webs of shadow. In one gilt oval mirror a 
corner of the lamp was duplicated, in another re-duplicated. 
Everywhere were bits of inessential decoration, the trophy 
of Senegalese spears over the door, the fringed and fretted 
bracket with nothing on it, a bronze fingerplate, a bit of 
lace or coloured glass, all the rest of the quick artifice with 
which that great nation diverts attention from its naked 
purpose in life to wring from everything the last benefit 

261 



262 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

the occasion will yield. Or so at any rate it seemed to me 
that night, as my eyes rested on the wriggling gilt ribbons 
of the mirrors and Ganymede struggling in the Eagle's 
clutch. 

When Alec Aird had greeted me on Dinard Cale he had 
glanced at the two suit-cases I had thrown ashore and asked 
me whether that was all the gear I had brought with me. 
And it is true that one cannot stay many weeks in a place on 
the resources of two suit-cases. But the length or shortness 
of my stay was now only part of a wider issue. The ques- 
tion was, not how long I was to stay, but how I was ever 
going to leave until Deny was ready to come with me. Was 
he likely to come now? Would anything drag him away? 
Hardly 1 Jennie was perfectly right : "He isn't even think- 
ing of leaving, because we both know now we knew in 
the shop and he loves me too!" 

A pretty kettle of fish, I reflected, looking at the empty 
brackets and the spears over the doorway. . . . 

For it was all very well to talk about only seeing one an- 
other, only speaking to one another. How long was that 
likely to last ? How long had it lasted Julia Oliphant ? Just 
as long as it had taken her to help herself to more. True, 
Julia was not a sleeping, but a particularly wide-awake 
beauty. Julia was not Jennie. For the glimmers of star- 
light that Julia had formerly brought into his life Jennie 
had now given him the sun itself. Both had known it in 
that long exchange of eyes in the Dinard Bazaar that 
morning. 

Therefore I feared that, while Julia had produced in him 
an aberration grave enough but still only of the second 
magnitude, Jennie might now unwittingly bring about a 
cataclysm indeed. For he himself had said that his chances 
of stability lay in an even and unexciting tenor of life. He 
must sail, so to speak, on an even keel. Calmly and equably 
he must pick his way through this beautiful and passionate 
wonder. He must lash the wheel of his will lest the lightest 
of her sighs should drive him rail-under. A glance might 
mean the loss of years to him, a kiss death. . . . Others 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 263 

than I have told of loves between two normal creatures, if 
such in love there be. I am the first, since a mortal fell in 
love 'with a god, to tell of lovers whose lives met as they 
approached each other from opposite directions. 

Yet only to see one another, only to speak to one an- 
other! Who with a heart could refuse them that? Who, 
only looking at them, he serious and radiant, she as I had 
seen her among the marguerites that afternoon ? Love was 
first invented for such as they. Could he but have slept, 
like Endymion, in his loveliness for ever! . . . You see 
what had already become of my momentary anger against 
him. It was quite, quite gone. He was once more my son, 
outside whose door I had paused with a sick dread that very 
morning. 

And as love of him re-possessed me the marvel grew that 
he should so have survived that shock of beauty and emo- 
tion that had been his where the cars had stood parked in 
the transparent gloom. "Who was that with you in the 
garden, George ?" his ardent whisper seemed to sound again. 
Was it possible that there were two loves, the one shattering, 
ruinous, destructive of the few years of his life, but the 
other full of security, healing and rest ? Was there indeed a 
Love Sacred and a Love Profane? (Yet who would call 
Julia Oliphant's love for him profane? He himself, since 
he had always refused it? Surely none other.) And I re- 
membered his own halting surmises as to the origin of his 
singular fate. He had known heaven and hell had "been 
too close to the balm or the other thing." God (he had 
said) was more than a gland ; not a knock on the head in the 
war, but the contending angels themselves of Good and Evil 
had brought him to this. The one principle had fetched 
down his years all clattering about him on that moonlit 
night when the cracking of a cone on my balcony had 
brought me out of my bed. Was the opposite principle now 
about to expunge that other ill, to restore him, and to make 
him a whole and forward-living man again? He believed 
that there was a chance of it. Was it too utterly beyond 
belief after all? 



264 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Did it prove to be true, then all was heavenly clear. His 
new life would be what we all sigh that our lives were not 
no blind groping in the night of ignorance and doubt, but 
the angelic victory over the hosts of darkness. He was 
nineteen and unburdened of his sin, she seventeen and sin- 
less. They would marry. One marriage such as theirs 
might at the last be enough to rehabilitate the despairing 
world. Instead of being in his own person a public peril 
he might be society's hope and stay. 

And I found my excitement quickening so far all was 
well. "Entrez!" the bright voice that might have been 
silent for ever had called, and I had entered to find him 
humming over a paint-box. 

Surely he knew about himself if anybody did 

And he thought he could keep on an even keel 

There broke in on my musing the sudden sound of voices. 
The Airds were returning from their walk. Madge tapped 
at the window, the catch of which I had turned, and she and 
Alec entered. Jennie walked straight past, and I heard her 
step in the hall, then on the stairs. Apparently she was 
going straight to bed. 

"Then if he's English what the devil does he wear those 
clothes for ?" Alec demanded as he closed the window again. 

"Mon ami, as he hasn't consulted me about his clothes I 
don't know." 

"Where did Jennie pick him up?" 

"Don't speak as if he was a germ. And do make a tee-ny 
effort to be a little less insular, my dear. 'When the Lord 
said all men He included me/ " 

"We aren't in heaven. We're in Dinard." 

"Among the world, the flesh and the French," said Madge 
cheerfully. "Why shouldn't he speak good French instead 
of your eternal 'Donnez-moi' and 'Combierif Why 
shouldn't a thing mean something simply because it isn't in 
English? You'd better go home and go to Lords'. . . . 
George, you've been asleep !" 

If I had I was very far from being asleep now. If my 
ears told me truly, since leaving Ker Annie the Airds had 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 265 

met, and had spoken to, Derwent Rose. Alec crossed to the 
fireplace, lifted the shutter, knocked out his pipe, and took 
up the running again. 

"And what on earth made Jennie speak to him in French ?" 

"Jennie's quite right to practise her French." 

"You don't practise French on a fellow who says he's an 
Englishman porter's blouse or no porter's blouse. I can 
hardly imagine she spoke to him without knowing something 
about him." 

"As you and I were there, very likely not/' said Madge 
dryly. 

"Anyway I marched Jennie on ahead," Alec growled. 
"Confounded mixed foreign company wish we'd never 
come here " 

"I," said Madge serenely, "found him entirely and alto- 
gether charming, as well as being one of the handsomest 
boys I've ever seen. And he's coming to have tea with me. 
. . . This, George/' she turned to me, "is a friend of Jen- 
nie's we met while we were out. He'd been making a sketch 
of the sunset and was just packing up, so we walked along 
together. Oh yes, I know I ought to be ashamed at my 
time of life but he's the most adorable creature! A good 
deal like your Derwent Rose to look at very like him, in 
fact though of course the Bear's old enough to be his 
father. And listen to Alec, just because he was dressed as 
half the English and American students in Paris are dressed ! 
I don't know whether Jennie's fallen in love with him, but 
/have!" 

"And if he's English what's he called Arnaud for?" Alec 
demanded with renewed suspicion. 

"Dear but simple husband, possibly he had a French 
father. Such things have been heard of, even in that Rough 
Island's Story of yours. If you'll make me out a list of the 
questions you want asked I'll get it all out of him when he 
comes to tea. In the meantime unless George would like to 
take me on the Casino for an hour I think I shall go to 
bed. Feel like a modest flutter, George?" 

I shook my head. 



266 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Then bed. I'll dream I won a lot of money. Unless I 
dream of young Arnaud. Don't let Alec fall asleep in his 
chair. Dors bien " 

She tripped out under the trophy of assegais. 

I was hardly five minutes behind her. Slowly I ascended 
to my room, crossed to the window, and leaned out over the 
balcony. 

So that was that. Simply, and without any fuss at all, 
his foot was in the door of Ker Annie. The whole thing 
had taken almost exactly twenty-four hours. In the space 
of two revolutions of the clock, he, from the lurking-place 
of his roadside hotel at St Briac, had contrived to get him- 
self asked to the house to tea. I wondered what he would 
do about myself. Would he blandly bow, as if our ac- 
quaintance began at that moment, or would he advance with 
outstretched hand, own up to it, and act on the square? If 
he admitted his acquaintance with me, what questions of 
Alec's should I not have to answer? How answer them, 
how explain my concealment? How accept any responsi- 
bility whatever for him? Yet how avoid complete respon- 
sibility? Apparently only Jennie and the maid who had 
announced him knew of his furtive visit to myself the 
evening before ; but Jennie knew, and what more she might 
learn when they put their heads together I could not guess. 
Perhaps little or nothing. Perhaps all. . . . 

My thoughts flew to Jennie again and the miracle of the 
past twenty- four hours for her. The first awakening look 
of that moment by the cars, the lovely and irreparable sur- 
render in the Dinard Bazaar, her sobs against my shoulder 
that afternoon, the radiant burst in which she had realised 
that he too loved her and then that evening's encounter 
whatever it had been, when apparently she had taken mat- 
ters into her own hands, bowed to him, and spoken her first 
words to him in French, to be answered in English. . . . 
No wonder she could not yet realise it. The day before had 
found her a child, moody, wilful, not knowing what ailed 
her, but crying to Life to take her, use her and not spare 
her; now she was a woman, with a strange sweet turmoil 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 267 

in her bosom, and a quite matter-of-fact resolution in the 
brain beneath that red-gold hair. No need to ask whether 
she slept! Sleep, with that ache and bliss at war in her 
breast? She must be awake at that moment, wondering 
whether he was awake, knowing that he was awake, lying 
in her innocent bed with her face turned towards St Briac. 
His miniature was painted on the curtains of her closed but 
unsleeping eyes, the echo of his voice was in her ears as 
she had spoken to him in French, and he had answered in 
English. 

And by the way, why had he answered her in English? 
Only that morning he had cajoled me into talking French, 
at any rate among French people. Had he too', stupefied 
with bliss, answered her instinctively in her own native 
tongue and his? Or had he deliberately resolved that here 
at any rate should be no trick or stratagem to be subse- 
quently explained, but a perfectly clean beginning? If so, 
how would he contrive to maintain it? How could he be 
secure that the contretemps of any single moment of the day 
would not catch him out? I remembered the masterfulness 
and skill with which he had managed me ; had he his plans 
for the handling of the Airds also? Were they to be 
founded on the appearance of complete honesty, with only 
the trifling fact suppressed that he had lived a whole life 
before ? 

If that was the idea, I could only catch my breath at the 
impudence and daring and pure cheek of it. Look at its 
comic beauties ! Months before, Madge had begged me to 
bring the author of The Hands of Esau to see her; well, 
here was that author coming as a corduroyed young land- 
scape-painter about whose nationality there seemed to be 
some ambiguity! That afternoon at the Lyonnesse Club 
she had admired him for the beauty of the prime of his 
manhood; and as a stripling youth his beauty had again 
engaged her eye! Suppose one of the books of Derwent 
Rose should happen to be mentioned; would he say "Ah 
yes, I've read that," and quote a page of it? Suppose she 
should say that he was rather like a man she had met in 



268 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Queen's Gate who was rather like Derwent Rose ; would he 
say "Naturally, Mrs Aird, since I am the same man" ? Or 
would he suppress even the twinkle of his eye and continue 
his leg-pulling? The thing began to teem with quite fas- 
cinating possibilities, and in a couple of days, in his French 
clothes or his English ones, he would be upon us. Within 
a week he might be painting Jennie's portrait, as Julia Oli- 
phant was supposed to be painting my own. 

And where were young Rugby, young Charterhouse, now 
that he had appeared on the scene? 

Suddenly, on the little balcony at Ker Annie that night, 
with the Plough over the sea and the lamplight from the 
salon below yellowing the garden, I found myself one tingle 
of hope that he might pull it off. 



II 

You will appreciate my growing excitement when I tell 
you of a resolve I took. It would have been perfectly simple 
for me to take the first tram out to St Briac, to see him at 
his hotel, to tell him I was aware of the turn events had 
been made to take, and to ask him to be good enough to tell 
me where I came in among it all. But I found myself vow- 
ing that I would be hanged first. It was his show, and for 
the present at any rate he should run it without any inter- 
ference from me. If when he came to tea at Ker Annie he 
chose to call me George, well, we would see what happened ; 
if he solemnly stood waiting to be introduced to me, that 
was his affair. At the least it would be interesting. It 
might prove enthralling. 

Therefore I did not seek him the next day, but crossed 
to St Malo with Alec and went for a potter about the quays 
of St Servan. 

I learned later that I should not have found him at St 
Briac even had I sought him there. He, who had so lately 
avoided the eyes of men, now coolly came forth and took 
his place in the world. His bicycle, instead of taking him 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 269 

and his painting-gear to Pleudihen or Ploubalay or the war- 
ravaged woods of Pontual, brought him into Dinard early 
in the forenoon. In the afternoon it brought him in again. 
It would probably have brought him in again in the evening 
had there been the faintest chance of a glimpse of Jennie 
Aird. It was on the afternoon trip that 'Madge met him, 
and when we returned from St Servan Alec and I were told 
that Monsieur Arnaud was asked to tea the next day. 

"Are you deliberately throwing him at that child's head ?" 
Alec asked crossly. 

"I'm adding him to my collection of nice people. I 
should be so much obliged if you happened to go to the 
Club, dear. Not that you're in the least like a wet blanket, 
darling. Only the thermometer drops just the least little 
bit." 

"It'll go up again all right if I see any reason for it," Alec 
promised. "You know nothing about the fellow. He may 
be all right for all I know, but as a matter of principle " 

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Alec on matters of prin- 
ciple takes time to run down. At the end he turned his 
head to find that Madge had left the room. And that is 
enough to annoy anybody. 

Something that I overheard on my way to my room the 
following afternoon caused me to smile. The door of 
Madge's room stood ajar, and as I passed it Jennie's implor- 
ing voice came from within. 

"Oh, mother, not that old thing! Do wear the putty 
colour !" 

"What !" in a faint shriek. "My very newest new one !" 

"Please, mother!" 

"But I was keeping that specially for " 

"Ple-e-ease! And the little darling hat!" 

"But " 

"Please, please!" 

I passed on. Evidently the best there was was none too 
good for Monsieur Arnaud, alias Arnold, alias Derwent 
Rose. 

Tea was set out inside the pergola ; Jennie herself placed 



270 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

little leaves round the sandwiches, begonia petals about the 
dishes of chocolate and nougat. Critically she paraded her 
mother's putty-coloured frock for inspection, touched the 
little darling hat deftly. She herself wore her pale gold 
silk jumper; her proud throat and small head issued from it 
like the little porcelain busts in the shop in the Rue Levavas- 
seur the Watteaus and Chardins and Fragonards that are 
made up into pincushions and cosies. She was a tremulous 
tender pout of anticipation and anxiety. A dozen times she 
moved the objects on the table, a dozen times moved them 
back again. Alec had dissociated himself from all this 
absurd fuss about a chance-met English youth with a French 
name, but he sat not far away, in the shade of the auracaria, 
behind the Paris Daily Mail. 

Then, at four o'clock, there was the short soft slide of 
somebody alighting from a bicycle, and Derry stood by the 
wrought-iron gate, looking about him. 

"This way come straight down!" Madge called. "The 
bicycle will be all right there." 

Rapidly as I knew Jennie's heart to be beating, I was 
hardly less excited myself. Now what was he going to do ? 

What he did was the simplest thing imaginable. As he 
advanced among the montbretias and begonias I noticed 
that he wore his English clothes. He took Madge's hand; 
he smiled simply at Jennie; and then, as Madge was about 
to present him to myself, he smiled and shook hands with 
me too. 

"That's all right we do know one another," he said. 
"Quite a long time. In London, eh, sir ? And, as a matter 
of fact, I came here to see him the other night, but you 
were all so busy with the party " 

Beautifully, calmly disarming He said it, too, just as 
Alec came up for Alec may growl before his guests come, 
and growl again when they have gone, but he is their host 
as long as they are there. If Monsieur Arnaud had known 
Sir George Coverham in London the situation was more or 
less regularised. The growling might continue, but in a 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 271 

diminuendo. Growling is sometimes a man's duty to his 
own face. 

"Well, let's have tea anyway," Alec said. "Tell them, 
Jennie." 

The dark blue clothes that had crossed the Channel in 
a motor-launch while their owner, thickly greased, had swum 
alongside in the night fitted him quite passably well; I 
remembered the very suit. His boots and collar, however, 
were French, and apparently he had no English hat, for his 
head was uncovered. I remember a foolish fleeting wonder 
that the light chequer of shadow should pattern his clear and 
self-possessed face exactly as it did our own and he the 
lusus nature? he was ! He stood there, modest and at ease, 
waiting for his seniors to seat themselves. I saw Alec's 
expert glance at his perfect build. I mentally gave the 
subject of athletics about ten minutes in which to crop up. 

"Do sit down," said Madge; and she added to me, 
"George, you never told me you knew Mr Arnaud in Lon- 
don!" 

"I think this is the first time we've all been together," I 
parried. 

Derry gave me a demure glance. "Oh yes. And I stayed 
a week-end in Sir George's place not so long ago had a 
jolly swim in his pond isn't that so, sir?" 

He should at any rate have a tweak in return. "When 
there's a prep school in the neighbourhood a good many 
young people use a man's pond," I observed; and at that 
moment Jennie and a maid arrived with tea. 

Already I fancied I had what is called a "line" on him. 
The only word I can apply to his modest impudence is 
"neck" charming, bashful, but quite deliberate "neck." 
He had not merely met me before in London ; oh dear no ; 
he went a good deal beyond that. He was a young man I 
had to stay in my house, allowed to swim in my pond. I 
saw the way already paved for as many visits to Ker Annie 
as he pleased. I saw in anticipation Alec coming round to 
his English clothes, his grace and strength of build. Madge 



272 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

he already had in his pocket. He even admitted having 
sought me at this very house a night or two before! My 
position was as neatly turned as heart could wish. I could 
not even imitate his own mendacious candour lest I should 
give him and myself completely away. Yes, I think "neck" 
is the word. 

He talked quietly, charmingly, not too much. Jennie 
hardly ventured to look at him, nor he at her. To Madge 
he was the most perfect of squires. Alec, like myself, was 
"sir" to him. 

"Yes, sir," he said, "that's quite right. I did do a bit of 
a sprint at Ambleteuse. I'm that Arnaud. But I've had to 
knock it off. You wouldn't think it to look at me, but I've 
got to go awfully steady. I used to be quite fast, but that's 
some time ago. And of course I shall be all right again in 
a little time. That's one of the reasons I took up painting. 
It keeps me in the air practically all the time." 

"Chest?" said Alec. 

"Something of the sort, sir. No thank you, I don't 
smoke." 

But for one significant trifle I think Alec might have been 
more or less satisfied. This was the fact that, in his own 
hearing, his daughter had spoken to this charming stranger 
in French, and had been answered in English. It might mean 
little or nothing, but I saw that it stuck in his mind. In his 
different way Alec is no less quick than his wife. Let him 
down once and you are likely to have to take the conse- 
quences for all time. A trifle ceases to be a trifle when it is 
all there is. Alec knew nothing of his visitor, but he did 
know that Jennie never addressed the blazered tennis-play- 
ing English youths in French. He also knew that for three 
days Jennie, who up to then had soaked herself in tennis, 
had not been near the nets at all. The intensely insular 
father of a beautiful girl of seventeen is not blind to these 
things. 

"I suppose your people were French at one time?" Alec 
said presently, not too pointedly. 

"Yes, sir," said Derry, for all I knew with perfect truth. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 273 

"My mother was a Treherne, a Somerset woman. I believe 
she and my father ran away. I don't remember him." 

"And you went to a French school ?" 

"No, sir. Shrewsbury." This, too, was perfectly true. 

"You've got an uncommonly good French accent, that's 
all," remarked Alec ; and relapsed into silence. 

After all, the last question he would have thought of 
asking his young guest was whether he might have a look 
at his birth certificate. 

Up to this point our gathering had had its distinctly amus- 
ing side. With consummate dissembling he had turned us 
round his finger, and it would have taken a conjurer to 
guess that he was softly laughing at all of us except Jennie. 
But the more I considered the "line" I had on his subtle 
machinations the less a laughing matter it all became. Be- 
hind the gentle deference of his manner I felt the grimmest 
determination. His charm was the charm of a charming 
youth, but it rested on the hard experience and resolution of 
a man. And behind that again in the last resort menace 
would lie. This man, actually older than Madge, not much 
younger than Alec and myself, and a full quarter of a cen- 
tury older than Jennie, had toiled for fame and had missed 
the fruits of it; he had chased the will-o'-the-wisp pleasure 
and had floundered in the bog; but now he had seen the 
shining thing beside which fame and pleasure are nothing 
at all. To seize that was now the whole intention of his 
marvellous twice-lived life. Let him keep his eyes as he 
would from looking directly at Jennie, Jennie was there, 
the prize for which he strove. And I knew in my soul that 
were I or another to try to frustrate him we had better look 
to ourselves. It was a thing none the less to beware of that 
his brow was smooth, his eyes bright, his skin clear as the 
skin of a boy. 

And all in a moment I found myself looking at him with 
I don't know how else to express it a sort of induced 
unfamiliarity. All the strangeness of it came over me again 
like a wave. I knew that I didn't know him in the least. 
Behind that mask he knew infinitely more about me than I 



274 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

knew about him. He sat with his back to the sea, and the 
tartan of tricky shadow laced his brow, was lost again as 
his face dipped, reappeared on the navy-blue sleeve and his 
brown hand on the table. Yes, completely a stranger to me. 
I his father? He was his own father. What else did all 
that turgid stuff in The Times about "maximum faculties" 
mean ? New words for old things ! "The boy is father of 
the man." They of old time knew it all before us. We only 
think it is truer to-day because more people talk about it. 
Here, incipient and scarcely veiled, was the real parent of 
the Derwent Rose of The Vicarage of Bray, An Ape in Hell, 
and all else he had ever done. Here, implicitly and in em- 
bryo, were the wit of the Vicarage, the patient purpose of 
Esau, and the deadly suppressed anger of the Ape. Pos- 
sibly you have never seen, brightly and sunnily displayed 
with a light and laughing lazy-tongs of rippling shadow, the 
authentic beginning of a man you have known twenty-five 
years farther on in time. Perhaps it is as well that they 
who have seen it are few. You may take my word for it 
that that family tree of which the roots are Arnaud and the 
blossoms Rose can be a rather terrifying thing. 

Therefore I and I alone was able to pierce through his 
blandness, and to see the tremendousness of the effort be- 
hind it all; and I wondered whether that was his idea of an 
easy and unexciting life! Whatever it was to him, I can 
only say that I did not find it so. I almost sweated to see 
his composure. Yet to all outward appearance he never 
turned a hair. His keel was still even, the rudder of his will 
under perfect control. Jennie with the downcast eyes was the 
mark on which he steered. And his own eyes sought the rest 
of us in turn with crafty innocence and infernal candour. 

"I beg your pardon, sir ?" he was saying to Alec. "Oh" 
he gave a little laugh of confusion "in a place like this it's 
sometimes difficult to say! Where was it, Miss Aird?" 
(But he gave her no chance to reply.) "One hardly knows 
how one meets anybody else ; it seems to be in the air ; you 
can hardly help knowing people. But these holiday ac- 
quaintances can be easily dropped afterwards." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 275 

("Steady, Derry!" I found myself commenting. "Don't 
overdo it that's rather experienced don't be too wise for 
the age you look.") 

"Anyway," he went on, "I shall probably be the last one 
here. I like the place, and the rate of exchange is all to the 
good when you know your way about not in a villa," he 
twinkled modestly. "They say Italy's the place, but I can't 
quite manage that, and England doesn't suit me, so I shall 
just stick on here and paint? r 

"I've only seen the sketch you were doing the other 
night," remarked Madge dangerously invitingly, I thought. 

"Oh, they aren't anything." He waved them aside. "I 
hope to do something one day. But it's a funny thing," he 
explained, "words and books and all that sort of thing never 
interested me in the least. I couldn't write if my life de- 
pended on it; can't imagine how Mrs Aird and Sir George 
do it. But everybody understands what they see with their 
eyes. Paint's the stuff." 

"Then when are you going to show us ?" said Madge. 

"If you'd care to, of course. George Sir George Cover- 
ham knows where I hang out. Perhaps you'd bring Mrs 
Aird round, sir? ... Ah J ' 

The last little exclamation accompanied as wonderful a 
feat of its kind as I ever saw. As she had turned to him 
Madge's elbow had caught a teaspoon, which slipped over 
the table's edge. But it never reached the ground. He did 
not even shake the table. The position of his shoulder al- 
tered, his hand shot out. He put the spoon back on the table. 
With such instantaneous smoothness had he done it that it 
seemed simple. But I tell you I caught my breath. . . . 

"Near thing," he smiled. "Oh, come any time. You 
won't have to mind a few stairs. But I'm afraid you'll be 
disappointed. I'm only a beginner really." 

And so not one door, but two were opened, the second 
one at his lodging at St Briac. 

But Alec as well as I had seen that marvellous piece of 
fielding with the teaspoon. Suddenly he got up, stretched 
himself, and walked away. 



276 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

The moment his back was turned Jennie spoke for the 
first time. 

"Perhaps Mr Arnaud would like to see the rest of the gar- 
den, mother?" 

"Then show him, child/' said Madge. "We'll be with 
you in a minute." 

Their eyes met. He rose. They went off together. 
Madge swung round on me. 

"Why didn't you say you knew him before?" she de- 
manded. 

"The question never arose/' 

"The question always arises if Alec's anywhere about. 
You know he's like a bear with a sore head about young 
men." 

"It's the duty of a father's head to be sore. I quite agree 
with Alec." 

"But if you'd only said 'He's quite all right, he stays with 
me in Haslemere ' " 

"Quite a number of people stay with me in Haslemere, if 
that's a social guarantee " 

"You know what I mean. Alec's simply a troglodyte. 
He doesn't belong to to-day. It's all very flattering, of 
course, but he simply can't forget what things were like 
when I was a girl. They never dreamed of letting us travel 
without a maid ; why, we actually had to sit still in the car- 
riage till the footman had opened our own front door. Alec 
doesn't realise that the world's moved on since then. And 
you could have put it all on a proper footing with three 
words!" 

" 'It ?' " 

"Yes, his coming here. All that fuss ! I think he's per- 
fectly delightful. And I know those Somerset Trehernes 
if they're the Edward Trehernes of Witton Regis. And I 
expect his painting's clever too. He looks as if he had all 
the gifts. . . . Now I make you answerable for Alec, 
George. That he's not simply stupid and unreasonable, I 
mean. I don't mean that he's not perfectly right to ask the 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 277 

usual questions, but Jennie's got to be considered too. She's 
quite old enough to know her own mind. Now I'm going to 
them. Are you coming ?" 

"I'll come along in a few minutes," I replied. 



Ill 

My intelligence with regard to painting is simply that 
of the ordinary man. I seldom speculate on the relation 
between one art and another. True, I have read my 
Browning, and have wondered whether he really knew what 
he was talking about when he spoke of a man "finding him- 
self" in one medium, and starting again all unprejudiced 
and anew in another. It sounds rather of a piece with 
much more art talk we heard when we were young. 

But Derwent Rose was only fallaciously young. He had 
time at his disposal in a sense that neither Browning nor 
you nor I ever had. And it seemed to me significant of 
the state of his memory that he should have turned his back 
on words and taken up paint instead. For the burden of 
his age was lifted from him, and he was advancing on his 
youth with a high and exhilarating sense of adventure. Now 
words had been the greatest concern of his "A," or Age 
Memory, and words, it must be admitted, have arrogated to 
themselves the lion's share of this strange faculty that we 
call remembering. Had he now found a means of expres- 
sion more closely in correspondence with the untrodden 
ground ahead ? In other words, was he a kind of alembical 
meeting-ground where the arts interpenetrated and became 
transmuted? ... I hazard it merely as a conjecture in pass- 
ing, and leave you to judge. Let us pass to that visit we 
paid to St Briac to see his sketches. 

Alec was not with us. The Kings, Queens and Knaves 
of the bridge-table were pictures enough for him. So I 
accompanied Madge and Jennie. Jennie's bosom lifted as 
we approached the wide spaces of the links but then the 



278 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

St Briac air is admittedly fresher than the tepid medium 
that is canalised, so to speak, in the streets and lanes of 
Dinard. It was afternoon, and the shed at the terminus 
was a bustle of moving luggage, friends meeting friends, 
parties going into Dinard to return by the seven o'clock tram. 
We crossed the road to his glass-fronted hotel. There was 
no need to ask for him. Evidently he had been watching 
from his window. He stood at the gate, once more in 
blouse and corduroys. 

"Tea first, I think, and the works of art afterwards," 
he greeted us cheerfully. "Where's Mr Aird? Oh, what 
a pity ! This way straight through the kitchen I thought 
it would be nicer outside " 

He led the way through the black and cavernous kitchen 
towards the sunny green doorway and the back garden. 

Tea was set under an apple tree. The garden was some 
fifteen yards square, but only close under the tree was there 
room for the table and the four chairs. Even then we had 
to be careful how we moved, lest we should crush a grow- 
ing plant. There were no paths you could hardly call 
those single-file, six-inches-wide threads paths. Unless you 
put one foot fairly in line with the other pop went a radish, 
a strawberry, a flower. Not one single hand's-breadth any- 
where was uncultivated. Behind Madge as she sat a row of 
scarlet runners made a bright straggle of coral, and dwarf 
beans filled the interstices. Over the runners tall nodding 
onion-heads showed, and behind them again bushes heavy 
with white currant. Along a knee-high latticed fence huge 
red-coated apples were espaliered, and the ochre flowers of 
a marrow sprawled over a manure-heap. Bees droned and 
butterflies flitted in the sun, glints of glass cloches pierced 
the screens of warm grey-green. And, where a tree of yel- 
low genet covered half the wall, a large green and red parrot 
in a cage had suddenly become silent on hearing voices. 

'That's Coco," Derry said. "Coco! Ck! 'Quand je 
bois mon vin clairet ' '' 

The parrot cocked his head on one side and regarded us 
with an upside-down eye. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 279 

"Chants, Coco! 'Quand je bois' You'll hear him all 
right in a minute, Mrs Aird. . . . Ma me-r-r-r-e! Nous 
void a table !" 

"Tout est pret on va servir !" came the shrill reassurance 
from somewhere inside the house ; and an immensely fat old 
patronne in a blue check apron brought out tea, followed by 
one of the reserved young Amazons with strawberries, cream, 
and little crocks of jam with wasps struggling on the top. 

As for Jennie and myself, I think she had completely for- 
gotten that I had ever tried to keep her and Derry apart. 
I was now the person through whose good offices she sat, 
with at least semi-parental approval, here in his garden. I 
do not want to pretend to more knowledge than I have about 
these secretive young goddesses, but, as she sat there, her 
eyes still bashfully avoiding Berry's, I was prepared to take 
a reasonable bet that I guessed what was passing through 
her mind. Derry had stayed in my house in England. Her 
too I had asked to visit me there. What an Uncle George 
indeed I should be if at some time or other I were to ask 
them together! Only as thanks in advance, after which I 
could not find it in my heart to withhold the benefit, could 
I explain the soft and grateful looks I received from time 
to time. I had one of these glances quite unmistakably be- 
fore I had as much as touched the cup of tea Madge poured 
out for me. "You see, mother's all right," it said as plainly 
as if she had uttered the words; "you'll make it all right 
with father, won't you ? I know you can if you will ! And 
thank you so much, dear Uncle George, for the perfectly 
lovely time we're going to have when we come to see you !" 
At any rate, that was my interpretation of it, while Derry, 
no less charming as a host than he had been as a guest, made 
himself honey-sweet to 'Madge and politely attentive to her 
daughter. 

Nevertheless, I presently asked a direct question about 
the hours of departure of the trams. I saw the faintest 
flicker of demure fun cross his face; and I too remem- 
bered, too late, how I had once countered him about the 
Sunday trains from Haslemere. 



28o THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"There's a four-thirty-five and a five- forty-eight," he 
said. "It's four-twenty now. We can cut out the pictures, 
of course, but it seems a pity not to have tea." 

So we had nearly an hour and a half. 

I don't really think that he had the least desire to show 
us his pictures. The pictures had served their turn hand- 
somely enough already. He wanted to remain under the 
apple tree, with Madge and myself there since we must be 
there, but anyway with Jennie opposite to him, eating his 
strawberries and jam, occasionally not knowing which way 
to look, the possession on which his twofold heart was set, 
the lovely and precious godsend he had missed once but 
would see us all with our throats cut rather than not clasp 
her to his bosom in the end. 

So we sat there over our empty cups, with the wasps 
struggling in the jam and Coco harping on the wires of his 
cage, but still obstinately refusing to sing "Quand je bois." 
Jennie got up to give him a piece of sugar, and he cocked 
his yellow upside-down eye at her and showed the ribbed 
black tongue inside his hook of a beak. Were I a painter I 
should paint the picture she made against the shrill yellow 
of the broom, with the sun full on her white summer frock, 
her gleaming hair, and the sun-loving bird with his head on 
one side watching her. "Mind his beak," Derry called; 
and she smiled over her shoulder, as if his mere voice were 
so much that she must turn her eyes whatever it said. Then 
she returned to the table, but not before she had plucked 
a sprig of genet and put it in her breast. It lay at the pit 
of her stately throat like a dropped blossom at the plinth 
of a column. 

"But what about the pictures?" Madge suddenly said. 
"We came here to see pictures, didn't we ?" 

"Then that means a trail upstairs," said Derry, springing 
up. "Carefully through the kitchen, Mrs Aird; it's al- 
ways as dark as the pit after you've been sitting out here. 
Perhaps I'd better go first." 

He led the way through the kitchen, up the bare polished 
stairs, and into his room. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 281 

He cannot have had any great wish to show them ; other- 
wise they would have been set out, or at least ready to hand. 
As it was he had to rummage for them in his single cup- 
board, selecting some, rejecting others. He showed a dozen 
or more of them, mostly canvas on the stretchers, but a few 
watercolours among them; and I fancy, if the truth must 
be told, that Madge was just a shade disappointed. I think 
she had hoped for jazz and lightning and something to go 
with her drawing-room cushions. Nor did I myself quite 
know what to make of those pictures. The first impression 
of them I had was a kind of let me say datelessness ; I 
can't think of a better word. All were landscapes, the 
largest of them not more than a couple of feet by eighteen 
inches ; and at first he set them up one after another rather 
negligently. But as Madge began to question him his man- 
ner rather curiously changed. That preternatural skill that 
he had shown for two whole afternoons seemed to drop 
from him. He seemed to halt a little, to take risks, to ad- 
vance warily into deeper water. If Mrs Aird really wished 
to know, then he was sincerely ready to explain. And he 
began to take me, for one, through the unsuspected intrica- 
cies of what at a first glance appeared to be a few casual 
brush-marks on the flat. 

"I dare say I'm all wrong I feel rather an ass talking 
about it," he said diffidently, "but I'll try to tell you. I 
mean I came across a fellow one day just outside Pleudihen, 
and he was painting what he called a Romantic Landscape. 
I asked him what a Romantic Landscape was, and he was 
just a bit stuffy about it. 'This that I'm painting,' he said. 
'But why can't you paint just a landscape?' I said. 'Be- 
cause I'm doing a Romantic one and I can't do two things 
at once,' he said. 'What are you doing it for?' I asked him. % 
'The Salon/ he said. 'No, but I mean why are you doing 
it?' I said. 'I suppose because I belong to the Romantic 
School,' says he. ... Well, there you are, Mrs Aird. 
What I mean is that he was painting it because he belonged 
to a school that did paint that sort of thing. If he'd be- 
longed to another school he'd have painted something dif- 



282 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

ferent, I suppose. So of course that set me thinking a bit." 

"I suppose so," said Madge, quite out of her depth. 

"So I said to him, 'What do you want to belong to a school 
at all for?' 'Everybody does,' says he. 'I should have 
thought that was all the more reason why you shouldn't,' 
says I. 'Oh, if you're a blooming genius!' he said ... a 
bit rotten of him, I thought, but he was years older than I. 
So I rather let myself go, I'm afraid. I picked up the near- 
est leaf. 'Look here/ I said to him, 'this thing's a leaf, just 
a leaf. It's a certain colour and a certain shape and certain 
other things; the point is it's itself and nothing else; and 
neither you nor I can alter it, sir' (I told you he was years 
older than I). 'The light hits it there, and only one pos- 
sible thing can happen ; it hits it there, where the direction 
alters, and only another thing can happen. In another min- 
ute the light will have changed, and a quite different set of 
things will have happened. Everything there is happens to 
that leaf in the course of a day, and if you know all about 
that leaf you know all about everything. And if you can 
paint it you can paint all the leaves in the world.' I hope 
I didn't seem too rude, but that's what I said to him." 

I had moved to the window. He was talking with a mix- 
ture of diffidence and warmth, on a subject I had never 
heard him on before, and yet it seemed to me that I had 
heard something strangely like it all before. 

"And what did he say?" Madge asked. 

"Oh, he said something, but he was years older than I, so 
I just said good afternoon. I suppose he went back to 
school," said Derwent Rose. 

Once more I was disturbed. Was this a new phase, or an 
old one all over again? If he was going to abolish schools 
and precedents and all the accepted apparatus by which the 
world's thought is carried on, it seemed to me to matter 
very little whether he dealt in words, as before, or in paint, 
as now. True, this parallelism might exist largely in my 
own imagination; he had said nothing that another man 
might not have said without arousing anxiety ; but again he 
was trying to see something, though only a leaf, as if it had 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 283 

never been seen before, and I noted it carefully as I looked 
out over the sunny northward water. 

"So that's more or less what I'm after," he was saying. 
"I know they're pretty bad, but I think they start right. 
That sky's as clumsy as it can be, but it is horizontal. That 
tree's got a back you don't see as well as a front you do. 
So I simply don't go to look at other people's stuff. . . . Ah, 
this branch will explain what I mean." 

It did when he pointed it out, but I should never have 
seen for myself. As completely as a worshipping pagan 
he sought to subdue himself to one given thing in one given 
moment. As I say, I know nothing about painting. That 
may be a valid theory of painting landscape or it may not. 
But it was his, there was no ear-say or eye-say about it, and 
it is of him and not of his pictures that I am speaking. 

"I believe I shall pull it off one day; in fact I know I 
shall. . . . And now that's quite enough about me. That's 
my view, Mrs Aird, and this is where I live. My old land- 
lady's a perfect dear, and Madeleine and Hortense are 
all right. But sometimes that brute Coco simply won't 
sing " 

I saw Jennie drinking in every detail of his room. There 
was not to be one inch of it that she could not reproduce 
when she went to bed that night and turned her face in the 
direction of St Briac. Her eyes took in his moulded ceil- 
ing-beams, the glass knob of his door, his neat bed, the 
herring-boned parquet of the floor. It was a little bare, 
perhaps, but then he spent all his days out of doors, painting 
those wonderful paintings, and, of course, this was not his 
real home. She hated that older painter a hundred at 
least who had been rude to him about the Romantic Land- 
scapes; instantly and passionately she had taken sides with 
her hero. She loved the fat old Frenchwoman who looked 
after him and was nearly seventy; she did not so much 
love the two Breton women who looked after him and were 
not nearly seventy. Coco was a naughty bird not to sing 
"Quand je bois" when he was told, and if his window did 
not face towards Dinard, at any rate he had the tram op- 



284 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

posite, and could watch it every time it started, and know 
that it was going almost past the gates of Ker Annie. She 
stood with puckered brows before his canvases. She loved 
trees. They would always be different to her now that he 
had shown her about them. She had no doubt whatever 
about his theory of landscape ; how could it be wrong if it 
was his ? Her ringers touched the blossom of broom at her 
throat that had grown on his tree. 

Then she came over to the window to make sure that 
Dinard really did not lie that way. Most stupidly it did 
not. Actually it lay miles away past the glass door-knob, 
and the Garde Guerin to the right was invisible from Dinard. 
But she pressed my arm lightly. "September, Uncle 
George?" the pleading pressure silently said. "You'll ask 
us both down in September, the moment we get back from 
here?" 

I looked at my watch. 

Then I heard Madge's voice across the room, and my 
heart almost stopped at the swift peril. 

"Then your mother was Cicely Treherne, and she mar- 
ried an Arnaud ?" 

But he weathered it. He did it with his rascally eyes. 
He smiled down on her. 

"Well ... I shouldn't be allowed to swear it in a court 
of law, because it was before I was born, you see." 

The smile conquered. She laughed. I cut quickly in, 
my watch half out of my pocket. Gunpowder was safer 
than family history with Madge Aird about. 

"Time?" I said. 

"Ought we to be going?" 

"The tram has a way of filling up." 

"Then don't let's miss it," said Madge, drawing on her 
gloves. "Thank you for a most delightful afternoon, Mr 
Arnaud (all my friends are 'Mr' for at least a week, you 
know). I think the pictures are fascinating; they make 
our books look very dull. Good-bye." 

"Oh, I'm coming to see you off," he said. 

Something in his last words, I really can't tell you what, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 285 

made me take a swift resolve. If he was going to see us 
off, I was going to see him off also. I had a superstitious 
idea that it might be necessary. He had bamboozled Alec 
about his delicate chest, had only just evaded that question 
of Madge's that simply meant, if you like to do a little sum 
about it, that his mother had borne him at two different 
dates with a quarter of a century between them. Blandly 
as he might cover it up, I now expected nothing but tricks 
from him tricks coolly and resolutely planned and carried 
out without a moment's compunction or hesitation. Very 
well. He was going to be watched if I had eyes in my 
head. 

And so was Miss Jennie. With a guile so innocent and 
transparent that I had nothing for it but the tenderest and 
most smiling love, she too was quite capable of duplicity. 
More than once her tell-tale hand had fluttered about the 
flower at the pit of her throat. As I have said, I don't pre- 
tend to deep knowledge of the hearts of these superb and 
recently-awakened young creatures, but I do know when 
things are in the wind. 

Nothing happened as we passed down the stairs and out 
into the street. I could have taken my oath of that. And, 
devoted as always, he walked with Madge across to the 
terminus, leaving Jennie to me. But I felt it coming. . . . 

It came as he took the tickets at the guichet; and it was 
not of his doing, but of hers. I had silver in my hand, ready 
to repay him, and there was no reason why she also should 
have pressed so close to him. Again there was the little 
flurry about the flower at her throat; her bent nape was 
towards me ; the thing was movingly clumsily done. 

But it was done for all that. A note passed from her 
hand to his, and the fingers that passed it were held for a 
moment. 

Don't tell me that that note had not been in readiness 
probably since the evening before. Don't tell me that it 
had not lain under her pillow for a whole night before being 
transferred to that tenderer post-bag that was sealed with 
the yellow flower. Don't tell me that it had not been even 



286 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

more sweetly sealed. For I saw her face when she turned 
again. I saw its struggle of soft emotion and the will to be 
calm. With a quick little impulse that I did not understand 
she flew to her mother's arm. 

"There are three seats there if we're quick," she said in a 
broken little voice. . . . 

Only to see one another only to speak to one another 
and to pass a secret note at the first opportunity 



IV 

"You know that we can't quarrel, Derry," I said. 

"In that case " he said quietly, but did not finish. 

"We can't quarrel for the reason there's always been 
that we aren't in the same ring and can't possibly get there." 

"I wish " he began, but once more suddenly stopped. 

From the obscurity of the next table where the four 
young Frenchmen sat another soft unaccompanied song 
broke out. 

"Listen," whispered Derry. 

"En mon coeur, tendre reliquaire, 

J'avais garde ton souvenir ; 
Par lui le long de mon calvaire 
En esperant, j'ai pu souffrir!" 

"Hush!" his voice came huskily from the dusk by my 
side. 

"J'ai vecu des heures cruelles 
Loin de toi, que j'aimais tou jours; 

Les revoici, pour moi plus belles 
Puisqu'elles sonnent ton retour." 

The song was finished without further interruption from 
him. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 287 

"Ne parlons plus de nos alarmes, 

Effaqons 1'horrible passe; 
Reviens, je veux secher tes larmes 

Et revivre pour t'adorer: 

"Rien n'est fini, tout recommence, 

Puisque nous voila reunis 
Au chaud soleil de 1'esperance 

A tout jamais, soyons unis!" 



It was nine o'clock of the same evening, and we were 
sitting outside the hotel of St Briac's tiny triangular Square. 
I had broken away from dinner at Ker Annie in order that 
I might see him without a moment's loss of time. What did 
it matter that I had had to hire a special car, and that that 
car was waiting for me in the darkness of a side-street now ? 
As it had happened, I had met him on the road. Had I 
not done so I should have scoured the neighbourhood until 
I had found him. 

Our backs were to the lighted windows of the hotel, but 
he had blotted himself into the shadow by the door. The 
Square might have been a set-piece on a stage. Yellow 
strips of light streamed from open doorways, illuminated 
window-squares showed the movement of dark heads within. 
Children playing their last ten minutes before going to bed 
flitted like moths in and out of the beams, and the comers 
and goers across the square seemed actors in spite of them- 
selves. The four young Frenchmen sat in the shadows be- 
yond the lighted doorway, and they had sung three or four 
songs before singing that one. 

There was a long silence between Derwent Rose and my- 
self. Then suddenly he got up and crossed to the group of 
Frenchmen. In a minute or so he came back again, and 
thrust himself more deeply still into the shadow. 

Then I felt rather than heard his soft shaky mutter. 

"Le long de mon calvaire . . . mon calvaire, mon Dieu! 
. . . effagons 1'horrible passe . . . rien n'est fini, tout re- 
commence . . tout recommence. . . ." 



288 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

That wretched, wretched song ! It had suddenly made it 
impossible for me to go on. 

"I suppose you went over to ask the name of it?" I said 
sullenly ; I almost said "The name of the beastly thing." 

"It's called 'II est venu le Jour." 

"Coincidences are stupid things." 

"I dare say." 

And another long silence fell between us. 

Nevertheless I had not taken a special journey to St Briac 
merely to listen to his disturbed breathing. What I had 
seen that afternoon had taken matters far beyond that. If 
he, in his situation, thought he could do thus and thus, I 
was there to see, to the limit of my power, that he did not. 
I had already told him so, in those words. He had made a 
stiff reply. Then had come that calamitous song, and our 
present silence. 

"Well . . . you can't, and there's an end of it, Derry," 
I said, quietly but flatly. 

"So I understood you to say." 

"It's what I came specially to tell you." 

"I gathered that too. By the way, if you want to send 
your car away there's a Casino bus going in at ten o'clock. 
No need to waste money." 

"We may not have finished our talk by then." 

"Then we can finish it in the bus. I'd thought of going 
in myself." 

"To hang about that house?" 

"You and the gendarmerie can stop that easily enough." 

We were back at the same point that we, between whom 
a quarrel was impossible, must apparently nevertheless quar- 
rel. 

"Look here," I said at last, "can't you see my position?" 

"I can. It's a rotten one." 

"If I saw the faintest glimmer of hope " 

"Esperance," he muttered. 

" even from their point of view. Aird isn't a fool. 

He heard Jennie speak in French to you, evidently the very 
first time she had spoken to you regular monkeys '-parade 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 289 

business from his point of view and he draws his own con- 
clusions. And Mrs Aird isn't a fool either. She won't be 
in London two days before she's found out all about your 
mother." 

"I see all that." 

"Your mother didn't marry an Arnaud." 

"Quite right. She'll know that too." 

"And Aird's athlete enough to know you're no more 
poitrinaire than he is." 

"I once saw him score a ripping try on the Rectory 
Ground. I was about twenty." 

"You haven't a paper to your name." 

"Not one." 

"You can't even get back to England." 

"Oh, I wouldn't go so far as to say that." 

"And you're no better off if you do." 

"That remains to be seen too." 

"Then Mrs Aird's a writer herself. She knows every 
word Derwent Rose ever wrote." 

"Oh, I had a reader here and there," he replied non- 
chalantly. 

"And she wants to meet you not Arnaud, but Derwent 
Rose. I'm to take you round there." 

I felt his smile. "That would be the deuce of a hole 
for you to be in, George. You'd simply have to say you 
couldn't find me." 

"But Derwent Rose is supposed to be alive somewhere. 
Nobody's heard of his death." 

"One man extra, one man missing, so it's as-you-were. 
Anyway nobody'll worry much about that. I never had a 
tenth of your readers." 

"And you're bound to be caught out here sooner or later 
on the question of domicile." 

"Not if I see them first," he replied grimly. 

"Derry, you're my despair." 

"Oh, don't despair, George. Never despair. It will be 
all right. What about sending that car away? No good 
wasting good francs. You see, we've finished our talk." 



290 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"We haven't begun it yet." 

"Then for goodness sake let's begin and get it over." 

"Very well. Get ready. ... I stood by you at the tram- 
way office this afternoon. I saw what was given you there. 
I know what you have tucked away somewhere about you at 
this moment." 

He had asked for it, and had got it. Hitherto I had 
stuck to generalities; that this was particular enough I 
knew by his quick movement. His foot knocked against 
the flimsy table, and a coffee-cup all but fell. He spoke in 
a low but harsh voice. 

"That's not on the agenda, Coverham." 

"Pardon me." 

"It's not, and it's not going to be." 

"If you prefer it in French, it's a fait accompli." 

"You mean you'll bring matters to a head by telling them 
over there?" He jerked his head in the direction of Ker 
Annie. 

"That rests with you, here and now." 

He muttered. At first I could not distinguish the words. 
Then I heard, "No, not here . . . now if you like . . . it's 
got to come, I suppose. . . ." 

He rose. "Very well," he said. "I'm ready." 

"Wait a moment till I've paid for the coffee." 

"Oh, I'll wait all right." 

I entered the hotel and paid. When I came out again I 
looked right and left for him; then I saw his black smock 
and corduroys by a lighted door half-way across the Square. 
I joined him, and together we took the dark street to the 
right that leads to where the Calvary stretches out its arms 
across the harbour to Lancieux. 

Past the Post Office, past the 'Maine we walked without 
speaking that Mairie that either as an Englishman or a 
Frenchman knew him not. We ascended the short lane to 
the promontory. It was a whispering half-tide, but all was 
darkness save for a low remnant in the west, a twinkle or 
two over the shallows, and once more Frehel, this time di- 
rectly visible and giving us distinct shadows. The last gos- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 291 

sip had disappeared from the point. I don't think even a 
couple of lovers lingered on the steep below. It was him 
and myself for it, with the Calvary above us and that 
twelve-miles-distant Giant as timekeeper of our encounter. 

But he did an unexpected thing before he spoke. Under 
Frehel's sweeping finger the Calvary started forth for a mo- 
ment from the shadows. He advanced to it, dipped his 
knee, and crossed himself. 

Then he turned to me. 

"Well " he said quietly. 

I waited. It was he who began. 

"Don't think I don't see the force of everything you've 
said. Every word of it's true, and a child could see it. 
For one hole you can pick in the position I can pick five 
hundred. But picking holes doesn't help. What you aren't 
allowing for is the force of circumstances." 

"It's the force of circumstances I've been trying to point 
out," I said, as quietly as he had spoken. 

"I'm speaking of the circumstances / find myself in, the 
pressure that drives me to do what I am doing. You don't 
think I'm deceiving these decent people as a matter of choice, 
do you?" 

"You say what youVe got to say. I'll tell you what I 
think by and by." 

"I've no choice. I'm driven to it, can't escape it ; it's my 
handicap. I want you to look at it for a moment from my 
end. What's the very first thing I've got to do? To lie 
about my name. I must lie, knowing perfectly well that a 
day, a week or a month or two at the outside will see me 
caught out and shown the door. Never mind other instances ; 
let's stick to that one; the rest are just the same, only a 
good deal worse, some of 'em. Now here's the point. Do 
you suppose I should put my head into a noose like that 
unless I was perfectly sure that I'd finished sliding, was 
well dug in, and had a fairly reasonable prospect of present- 
ly going straight ahead like anybody else?" 

But I had no intention of going over that ground again. 
My foolish excited hope that he might "pull it off" had been 



292 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

scattered to the winds by the events of that afternoon. As 
far as he himself was concerned I wished him all the best 
that could happen to him, but it was not a chance that the 
happiness and safety of the daughter of my friends could 
be risked upon. Let him start to go forward first; let us 
have some assurance that the ghastly business was all over ; 
then would be time enough to talk about the rest. 

"We've had all that," I interrupted him. 

"We haven't, George," he said earnestly. "You don't 
know. You can't possibly know. You've no idea of the 
care the tests " 

"If it comes off all right nobody will rejoice more than I 
shall, Derry. What's between us at the moment is what 
happened this afternoon." 

Instantly I was conscious of his hardening. But he did 
not become granite all at once. 

"That can't be dragged in." 

"'Dragged in!'" 

"Can't you accept the situation, George?" 

"No." " 

"Not if I solemnly assure you that I have a good chance?" 

"When it's a proved certainty we'll talk about it." 

"Not if I tell you my mind's perfectly made up?" 

"That's the point." 

"Not if it meant a breach between you and me?" 

"It looks as if I had to have a breach with somebody." 

"Your friends. I know. I've admitted all that. It's 
beastly. But I'm afraid it can't be allowed to make any 
difference." 

"Suppose I denounce you ?" 

"I'm sure you'll act perfectly conscientiously whatever 
you do." 

"That would mean your complete exposure." 

"I'm prepared for that." 

"You said the other night that you only wanted to see 
and talk to her. You said you'd go no further than that. 
Do you call what happened this afternoon keeping your 
word?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 293 

"I meant what I said at the time. You know that I hon- 
estly hadn't a thought of deceiving you. I'm afraid that 
word can't be kept. Perhaps I hadn't quite realised." 

"Have you realised yet?" 

"Oh!" 

"You haven't. Let me help you. And I'll put it as 
much in your favour as I can. I'll assume you're standing 
still for the present. I'll even assume the other possibility, 
or impossibility, whichever it is that you might actually 
turn round again. Even then what would it mean? It 
would mean that I, a guest of my old friends, was lending 
my countenance to something against every conception of 
mental decency let us say. I think I know your dates and 
figures pretty well by this time. You were born in '75. 
Now, in 1920, we'll say you're eighteen. It's taken you 
forty-five years to live to eighteen, and if you're to live to 
forty-five again it will have taken you how long? seven- 
ty-two years. It will then be getting on for 1950. Jennie 
was born in 1903. You're now forty-five to her seventeen. 
If this thing comes off you'll be in the early forties together. 
But at the same time you'll be over seventy. Look at it, 
Derry look at it." 

"Look at it? I have looked at it. I'll look at it again 
if you like. . . . Now I've looked at it again. Only you 
and I know it. And anyway there's nothing in it." 

"Julia Oliphant knows it." 

"Then only you and I and Julia Oliphant know it, and 
there's nothing in it." 

"Then tell me if there's anything in this. What guar- 
antee have you that exactly the same thing won't happen to 
you again? Take the maddest view of all that you actu- 
ally might go forward. If indications are anything you're 
repeating your experiences already." 

"How so?" he demanded. 

"In this painting of yours. I heard your explanations to 
Mrs Aird this afternoon. You're starting with exactly the 
same ideas as before complete dissociation from every- 
thing else that's ever been done. You're going to be the 



294 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

First Man again instead of the Millionth Man. How do 
you know it won't land you in the same mess? It used to 
be words; now it's paint, and that's all the difference I 



see." 



There was a long pause ; then I heard his soft, almost in- 
dulgent laugh. 

"Look here, George," he said slowly. "I'll make you a 
fair offer. Can't you and I come to terms if I swear to you 
that I'll never touch another canvas or brush or pen or sheet 
of paper as long as I live? Will that satisfy you?" 

"I'm afraid not." 

"But doesn't that meet your objection, old fellow?" 

"No. Because you'd be the same man whether you wrote 
or painted or not!" 

"But how on earth can I alter that?" 

I seized on his words. "Exactly. That's my whole 
meaning. You can't alter it. Whether you do the same or 
not, you are the same. For all I know you'll go on being 
it till the crack of doom. It's yourself that's been visited, 
not your books. And that's why things can't go on be- 
tween you and Jennie Aird." 

"Then you're going to stand between us as long as I 
ami?" 

"That's about the size of it." 

"Doesn't it strike you as a little hard, George ?" he asked 
slowly. 

"Yes," I admitted doggedly. "But you'll be bearing it, 
not she." 

By the swinging beam of Frehel I saw that his head was 
bowed. Without my noticing it the riding-lights in the lit- 
tle harbour below had disappeared; as no boat could now 
put in till dawn the pecheurs had waded across the shallows 
and extinguished them. The tall Crucifix seemed to ad- 
vance and to retire again into the gloom with the next revo- 
lution of the Light. 

Then he raised his head and asked about the last question 
I expected. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 295 

"About my money, George. You don't know exactly how 
much I've got?" 

"No, not at this moment." 

"Who bought the stuff?" 

"I sold it in the best market I could find." 

Ironically came his reply. "Hasn't it got a name? Are 
there two of us? ... Anyway, without worrying you too 
much about it, I'd like an account soon. I want that matter 
cleared up." 

"Well, never mind furniture at present. That's a detail." 

"Oh no it isn't!" he answered quickly. "We seem to 
have different ideas as to what's detail. You've given me 
quite a lot of what I call detail. This is important. You 
really don't remember the name of the man who bought that 
furniture of mine ?" he mocked me. 

"I've already told you you can draw to any reasonable 
amount." 

"I see. ... Is this it, that my furniture isn't sold at all, 
and you're advancing me money on the security of it ?" 

"Security, Deny!" 

"And I still have my furniture and I owe you five hun- 
dred francs?" 

"Must we talk about this now?" 

There was no mistake about the granite this time. 

"Yes, we'd better," he said curtly. "We've wasted time 
enough about things that don't matter that" he snapped 
his fingers. "I've listened to what you've got to say, and 
now I'm going to ask you to listen to me. I owe you five 
hundred francs, for which I'm most sincerely obliged. But 
I don't think I should have asked you if I'd known. And 
I want you to understand that it's all I do owe you." 

"Derry, old fellow " 

"Tut-tut ! One tale's always good till you hear the other 
side. It doesn't seem to strike you that you've made pretty 
free with me. I'm a subject for sums and mental arithmetic 
exercises you're better at that than at accounts. I'm some 
kind of an oddity, that's got to be shoo-ed with an apron this 



296 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

way and that, and told where he's to go and not to go, and 
who he shall speak to and who he shan't. You'd be best 
pleased of all if you could shut your eyes and tell yourself 
that I didn't exist. But I do exist, and I'm not on sale for 
five hundred francs. I'm here on earth, and I don't see 
what you're going to do about it. I'm not less alive than 
anybody else ; I'm more alive a hundred times more alive. 
You can call me any age you please but who'd be locked 
up, you or I, if you showed me to any reasonable being and 
told them I was forty-five? Care to try it on the Airds? 
I'll give you the chance if you like." 

Bitterly as he spoke, he grew bitterer as he proceeded. 

"This is not the first time you've interfered. You've made 
free with my latchkey before this. Julia Oliphant knows 
about me ; who told her, and who gave you permission ? It 
seems to me I've been pretty patient. I'm not saying you've 
not been decent about some things, that time when I was 
slipping about all over the scale, but I'm warning you now. 
I've listened to all you had to say. I've met you at every 
point. I've even offered I'm hanged if I know why not 
to write or paint again if that will please you. But beyond 
that " 

Then came an outburst the contempt of which I cannot 
reproduce. 

"Writing! Painting! Books! Pictures! As if they 
had any more to do with life than a baby playing with its 
doll ! They're to help fools to think they're thinking. They're 
to make 'em believe that but for some slight accident they 
could do the same themselves as they could, and do ! They 
call a thing like that a 'gift' ; but what's the Gift that Life still 
has to give when they've said their very last word they and 
their schools? What's been there all the time, waiting for 
us to get the dust out of our eyes? . . . George Coverham, 
try to come between me and that and as sure as God will 
bring to-morrow morning I'll put a stop to your arithmetic 
for ever! What do I care if I have to take a new name 
every day ? What do I care if your friends the Airds bun- 
dle you out of the house? Do you think it matters to me 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 297 

whose father and mother and family history and papers I 
steal? That's all life seems to mean to some of you. 
'Where did he come from? Who knows him? Is he 
French or English? What does he do for his living? Has 
he paid his Income Tax? Is he respectable? What" did he 
do in the war? Where does he bank? What's his club? 
Where does he live and how much is his rateable value?' 
You can't see a man for all that I You can't even see me 
now for Derwent Rose and his tombstones of books! By 
Jove, I said I was a ghost once ! But that was when I was 
on the slide ! I'm no ghost now ! It's you others who are 
the ghosts! It's you who'd better get off the map! J'y 
suis, j'y reste; I'm here here!" 

And again Frehel showed him there young, beautiful, 
indomitable and ruthless. 

Yet what did he utter but his own deeper and deeper con- 
demnation? Simple, heart- full, innocent Jennie Aird be 
mated with his piercing and impossible view of the world ! 
She herself, yes, even in her body's beauty, to be what his 
books had formerly been, what his painting was to be again 
the very medium of his transcendental transgression! 
Why, one peep at that awful sleeping dynamo of his mind 
would be enough to drive her mad, one glimpse of the ex- 
perience that had been his suffice to shrivel her opening heart 
for ever ! Did he think to put off his flames and clouds and 
lightnings every time he whispered a love-word into her ear ? 
What fate would be hers, poor Semele, did he forget, as he 
had forgotten before now, and put forth the enormousness 
of his power by her side? With every word he spoke it 
was less and less to be thought of. As far as my own 
carcass was concerned he might do what he pleased. I 
would not stand by and see it done. His vision and will 
might exceed mine a thousandfold, but even in my humble 
heart glimmered the small flame of what I considered to be 
my duty. I faced him, waiting for the Light again. 

"Very well," I said as it came over his face. "Am I to 
take that as your last word ?" 

"If you please." 



298 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Then hear mine. I have a car waiting just off the 
Square. You may knock me on the head, as you've al- 
ready threatened. At least I shall have no further respon- 
sibility for you then. But unless you do that I'm going to 
get straight into that car, drive to Ker Annie, and tell the 
Airds the whole thing before I go to bed. You'll then have 
the satisfaction that it's a straight fight in the open, and 
that you aren't creeping like a blight into a happy house 
under a name that isn't even your own." 

He spoke very, very slowly. "You mean that, George?" 

"Enough. I'm going to stand here without moving till 
the next time that Light shows your face. Then I shall do 
what I've said." 

And I stood, still as the rocks at the foot of the Crucifix, 
giving him his chance. 



The darkness seemed an omnipresent thing, positive 
rather than an absence, that invaded and became part of me, 
of him, of the place, of the hour. Not a star was to be 
seen, not one speck in the immensity of the night. I did 
not even look where I knew his black-bloused figure to be ; 
his hand might have been uplifted for all I knew. Or for 
all I cared. Once more I was weary to death of him and 
his domination. There was not room for both of us. He 
might have the field henceforward to himself. I had done 
what I could. 

It was an eleven-seconds interval. The Light came. Still 
I did not look at him. The Light passed away again. 

Four seconds, and once more the Light. 

Eleven seconds, the Light, four seconds, the Light. . . . 

Then only did I look up. 

I had not heard him move, but he had done so. He had 
sunk to the rocks at the foot of the Calvary, the rocks worn 
smooth with the sitting of generations of evening gossips. 
I heard a faint choke. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 299 

Then his voice came. 

"Isn't it isn't it a little rough on a fellow, sir?" 

In a moment I was on my knees by his side. "Derry! 
Derry! Derry!" I repeated over and over again. It was all 
the speech I could find. 

"Isn't it rough on a fellow, sir? Isn't it? Isn't it?" 

"Derry my boy, my boy !" 

"I feel you're right in a way, sir you're bound to be 
wiser than I am but when I heard them singing that song 
this evening . . . le long de mon calvaire ... en esperant 
j'ai pu souffrir . . . rien n'est fini, tout recommence ... it 
seemed so like it all, sir you don't know you've no 
idea " 

I rocked him gently in my arms. 

"You don't know you can't possibly know nobody 
knows who hasn't been through it. Mon calvaire mon 
Dieu ! And to have it hurt you like that just because you are 
able to hope! Not the end after all, but the beginning of 
everything! Oh, can't you see it, sir not even a little bit 
of it?" 

"Yes, talk, my boy get it over " 

"I shall be all right in a minute. It simply got me by 
the throat. That song, I mean. I suppose it's just an ordi- 
nary song really the French are like that but it got me 
by the throat, it was so like me. So like the way things 
have been with me. What did they say it was called? I've 
forgotten." 

'"IlestvenuleJourf" 

"Yes, that's it. The day's come. After all that. It 
came that night I'm not making a joke, sir that night in 
the garden. It's been day ever since. .Night's been day, like 
a soft sun shining all night. And I wouldn't ask you to lift 
a finger to help me if I didn't know it was quite all right. 
I do know. It's she who's made everything all right. That's 
the funny thing about her that she's made everything per- 
fectly all right again. I wonder why that is ?" 

"Don't wonder. Just stay quiet a while." 

"But a fellow can't help wondering a bit. Why should 



300 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

it have made everything all right the moment I set eyes on 
her? But she did. I told you about something happening 
before, sir, something I can't quite remember about. That 
seemed like some sort of an emptying leaving me all empty 
and aching, if you understand. But this filled it all up 
again, with happiness and I don't know what lovely things 
all since that night. That's what makes me so sure. I 
wouldn't say it if it wasn't true. It isn't the kind of thing 
one cares to be untruthful about, is it ? You're in the same 
house with her you see her you know what I mean " 

Between this simplicity and his late menace, what could 
I say for his comfort, what do for my own? I was torn 
in two. I was a weary, elderly man, careworn and disillu- 
sioned; but he, through unimaginable tribulation, had mys- 
teriously found this place of stillness and peace and hope. 
What his intimidation had not done, that his utter reliance 
and trust now began to do. He sat up on the rocks and be- 
gan to talk. 

"You know something about my life, sir. Miss Oliphant 
knows most, of course, but you know quite a lot. If it 
doesn't sound most awfully conceited, I was rather a nice 
sort of fellow at eighteen. All the same. I always felt there 
was something not quite right. I don't mean anything I 
did ; I mean there always seemed to be a sheet of thick glass 
between me and the things I wanted to get close to. I 
could see through it all right, all the brightness and the col- 
ours, but somehow I couldn't get any nearer. There wasn't 
any feel of warmth somehow. It may sound silly to you, 
but I used to press up against that glass like a kid at a shop 
window full of things he wanted. It wasn't that I wasn't 
fond of things and people and so on. I was frightfully fond 
of them. But I couldn't manage to let them know it. Even 
my mother. When she wasn't there I was tremendously 
fond of her, but when she came I don't know of course I 
was fond then I suppose it was my imagination. But when 
she wasn't there she meant an enormous lot to me, and when 
she came she was just a nice little mother I was very fond 
of but never managed to let her know just as if I was 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 301 

ashamed. And it was so with everything else. I used to 
get excited over Shakespeare and Juliet and Hamlet and 
Falstaff and all those people, but they made other people 
seem rather shadowy. Then, when I was about twenty-one, 
it worried me fearfully sometimes. Other people didn't 
seem to be like that. I wanted to be like other people. 
They hadn't blocks of glass in front of them all the time. 
Somehow they seemed so nice and happy and warm all the 
time. I had a dog I was really fonder of than I was of 
anybody. And I wanted to be fond. I'm afraid this 
sounds absolute rot, sir, but I can't explain it any better." 

"I'm very much interested. Go on." 

"Well, that's lasted more or less all through my life. I'd 
get all in a glow about things just things, and of course 
people too in a way : somebody's hair under a stained-glass 
window in a church, or the' organ or the Psalms. But al- 
ways something in between, I don't know what. It worried 
me because I knew I was all glow inside if I could only get 
it out. I was awfully fond of Miss Oliphant, for instance, 
but I simply couldn't let her know it. I used to go and see 
her sometimes and sit there wondering about it. 'Now 
here's a jolly sort of girl/ I used to think, 'as good as they 
make 'em good-looking, sometimes nearly beautiful and 
awfully fond of you. Now why can't you get on with her? 
Why is there always something you don't say, don't really 
want to say perhaps, but it would make such a difference if 
you could say it ?' I used to ask myself that, but there was 
never any answer. There never has been. There it always 
was, that sheet of glass, as polished as you please, but shut- 
ting me right out from everything everybody else seemed to 
have." 

"But your books, Derry? You weren't shut out from 
everybody there!" 

"Perhaps that was where it went. You can give things 
to other people in a book you can't when you're sitting next 
to them. That's why I don't care if I never do anything of 
that sort again. I want to get near. . . . And now" his 
voice fell to a happy hush "it's all right. That was what 



302 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

she did, all in a moment, all in one look. That glass went. 
That's why I know that as long as she's near to me no harm 
will happen to me. Oh, I know it." 

Then, without the slightest warning, he broke into a heart- 
rending appeal. It was as if he had suddenly remembered 
that I was not yet won over. 

"Tout recommence! Mon calvaire, mon calvaire! . . . 
Have I to lose it the moment I see it ? Must I go back the 
same way ? Can't I go the other ? Haven't I carried my poor 
little bit of a cross too, sir? Haven't I? Haven't I? J'ai 
vecu des heures cruelles. . . . And hasn't it sometimes been 
so heavy that I've prayed it would crush me and get it over? 
And even when I've done the rottenest things haven't I al- 
ways wanted to do something better always ? Thank God 
for the glass those times anyway ! Sometimes I've stood off 
and looked at myself and said : 'Poor devil, it isn't you really 
if you must do this get it over as quick as you can and 
start afresh !' I've always started afresh. I never give up 
hope. . . . And do I get nothing at all at the end of it, sir? 
Are you going to scrape up all those bits of glass she broke, 
and put them together again, and send me back the same 
way? Not even a chance, now that everything really is 
beginning again? Now that the day's come? Now that 
for a week every night's been like a soft warm sun shining? 
Are you going to turn me back ?" 

Oh, had he but knocked me on the head a quarter of an 
hour ago it would have been easier! Then had I been at 
rest, with those who had built desolate palaces for them- 
selves before me. Or could I but have believed what he so 
firmly believed ! Yet must I not almost believe it ? Had he 
not now almost compelled me? What I had feared to find 
that morning at St Briac, the morning after the first meeting 
of their eyes over the car, had not happened, but something 
no less profound had. That hard clear obstruction that had 
stood immutably between him and life all his days had been 
taken away. I remembered my speculation as to whether 
there were not two loves, Jennie's and Julia's, a sacred and a 
profane. Two ? How if he were right, and there were not 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 303 

two loves, but one love only, which is simply Love ? What 
then became of all my arithmetic, my rectitude, my conven- 
tions, even my duty to my friends? What, by comparison 
with that love, that law-annihilating love that breaks the in- 
visible adamant fetters that bind the old Adam and bids the 
new man stand forth, were any or all of these things ? They 
were no more than those social rates and taxes, registrations, 
commitments, undertakings, contracts, all the rest of the 
paper business of our lease of life on which he had lately 
poured his scorn. The infinitude of passion and suffering 
of a single human soul seemed to me to dwarf them all. 
And if a man must sin, let him sin at the fringe and circum- 
ference of things, not at their centre. 

Could he give me any assurance whatever of these things 
he ached no more to enter his heaven than I ached to thrust 
him in. 

Every four seconds, every eleven seconds, Frehel opened 
the furnace of his white and blazing eye. Tremulously in 
and out of the gloom the Calvary seemed to advance and to 
recede again. Dimly I distinguished Derry's face young, 
faithful, agonised, interceding for his lovelier self. . . . 

It is a fearful responsibility a man past his prime assumes 
when he bids such a creature to hope no more, but to veil 
his face and to return to the pit whence he was digged. . . . 

And how had he offended me? He had merely received 
a note had not even given it, but had simply accepted it 
and held for a moment the fingers that had passed it. ... 

Had I, in my own insignificant youth, never done such a 
thing ? 

"Derry," I said gently, "I can't go over old ground again. 
At present I say at present I'm staying in the house. I 
must now decide how much longer I can stay there. But 
first tell me exactly what it is you propose to do." 

"I haven't any intentions at all, sir." 

"At present you haven't. You hadn't before, but that 
didn't last. What is it you want?" 

"Only that you shouldn't thrust me back into that other." 

"And then?" 



304 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"I can't think beyond that, sir." 

"But there will be something beyond that." 

He was silent while the Light revolved twice, thrice, 
then: 

"Et revivre pour t'adorer . . . like a soft warm sun even 
in the night," he breathed scarcely audibly. "You can't call 
it sleeping. Something blessed that you can't see is going on 
behind it all the time. Something seems to be breathing. 
That's what happens in the night now. It isn't sleeping; 
you're too happy to want to go to sleep. Then she smiles. 
Not like in the toyshop. She didn't smile in the toyshop ; that 
was a different kind of look altogether. She smiled yester- 
day when we were having tea, but you weren't looking. And 
twice to-day twice. ... At first I was afraid my painting 
was going to excite me a bit, upset me. Once or twice it 
did a little. I didn't want to talk about it much this after- 
noon for fear of it upsetting me. But everything calms 
down when she looks and smiles. It's just her being there. 
There isn't any glass at all ; the glass is between us two and 
everybody else in the world. Painting's perfectly safe with 
her by me perfectly safe. . . . But nothing's safe without. 
I shall slip again without her now. I felt myself even begin 
to slip that time you said she was going away. It was 
frightening. . . . Don't ask me to try the experiment, sir; 
it's so horribly risky; but if they were to spring it on me 
that she was going away I know quite well what would hap- 
pen. It would be like before ; I should have to pack up my 
traps and disappear again. And that time it would be the 
end. . . . But as long as I'm with her it's all clear ahead 
the new way the way I always tried to find and always 
missed il est venu le jour " 

He was hardly speaking to me. Little as I could see of 
his face, I could divine what passed there. After that re- 
cent violence, this almost dumb meekness and awaiting my 
judgment. And because he was not speaking to me, but 
was communing with his own solitary soul as gravely as he 
had bent his knee before That which rose above us into the 
night, I knew that I must end by believing him. At a word 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 305 

I could have sent her away. He had offered to put himself 
to the test of her departure. That he might be believed he 
had even offered to risk once more that hideous hiatus in 
his life. 

But it was not demonstration that swayed me to my 
irrevocable act. It was rather that transcending love that 
he himself had invoked. Love and pity lest this my son 
should once more be cast to the wolves of pain welled up 
like a sudden fountain in my heart. Nay, not from my 
own poor heart did it well, but from That above us that 
showed its dim crowned head and outspread arms every four 
seconds, every eleven seconds, four times a minute, cloaked 
itself in the night again, and again softly reappeared with 
the sweep of the occulted Light from That I think my pity 
descended. No thought for the morrow had that Original 
taken, no care of father or mother or friend, but only for 
the weak and the outcasts of the world. Who was outcast 
if this grave and destiny-ridden young figure before me was 
not ? I had stood before him waiting for him to strike me 
down; now in his patience and submission he struck me 
down. 

I could leave the Airds. I could turn my back on them 
for ever. This dark-bloused lad was my loved son, who 
mutely implored me to be given his chance. Were the Airds 
to die I should have to part from them. Death, that comes 
unannounced at any moment, parts us from all our friends. 
'My portrait need never hang in the Lyonnesse Club to re- 
mind Madge Aird that she had once had a friend who had 
betrayed her. I need not even return to England. So 
Derry might but establish himself, what did it matter though 
I wandered ? I had no love, nobody had a love for me, such 
as that that made his days and nights softly radiant. In a 
few years I should be gone. But he would be once more in 
the glory of his prime, living a life of my giving. In him 
would be my resurrection. To help him over this dead point 
the rest of my life was at his service. 

His prayer should be answered. 

But not without a stipulation. When all is said one has 



3 o6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

to be practical. Should she after all fail to lead him by 
the hand forward again into those fair and untrodden fields 
of life, all was rescinded. He must report progress. No 
step must be taken without my knowledge. One does not 
meditate a treason against one's friends quite so light-heart- 
edly as all that. Nor need he yet be told what I had 'ti my 
mind. I turned to him. 

"I shall go back now," I said. 

He did not speak. 

"But I shall do nothing to-night. In fact I won't do any- 
thing till I've seen you again." 

He did not thank me in words. 

"But the understanding is that you do nothing either. Is 
that agreed?" 

"I promise that, sir." 

"Then that's all. I'm very tired. I think I want to 
sleep." 

"Won't you lean on my shoulder, sir?" 

"Perhaps I will " 

Only to touch her willing hand only to carry her letter 
in his breast only to feel that in the unison of their two 
hearts the rest of the world might be lost in oblivion 



VI 

My reason for not telling him of my decision was that I 
did not wish him to have the uneasiness of knowing that he 
was responsible for it. Nor am I apologising for the mood 
in which I had made my choice. I had done so, however, 
without very much regard for necessary and practical de- 
tails. These it was that I began to turn over in my mind 
as, racked and restless, I lay in my bed that night. 

And first of all I began to realise that my choice involved 
me straight away in that very web of sophistry and dissimu- 
lation that I had wished to avoid. I had imagined on the 
spur of the moment that by walking out of the Airds' house 
with the most plausible explanation I could find, or for that 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 307 

matter none at all, I should be observing some sort of a 
decency to the roof that had so hospitably sheltered me. 
But when I came to look at it again ! . . . Good God, what 
sort of decency was that? To begin with, when you walk 
away from somewhere you walk to somewhere, and where 
was I to walk to? Away from Dinard altogether? That 
would be to walk away from Derry. Take him away with 
me ? That would be to take him away from Jennie and all 
hope. Move to an hotel ? I should be running into my late 
friends every hour, at every turn. 

In a word, what I was contemplating was not war on the 
Airds, nor even a hypocritical neutrality. It was a vile 
assassination. And suddenly I saw, and with a most singu- 
lar clearness, that my only way out, the only possible and 
honourable course, was not to leave the Airds and Dinard 
at all, but to leave the earth altogether. Believe me, who 
know, that that in the end is what contact with such a man 
as Derwent Rose amounts to. 

But I cannot say that suicide, sentimental, religious or of 
whatever kind, has ever strongly attracted me. There was 
a much, much simpler way out. Derry knew nothing of 
what had passed through my mind while Frehel's sweeping 
beam had conjured up that pallid Christ out of the darkness. 
I had not told him that I was prepared to sacrifice myself for 
him. All that he had been promised was a respite on terms 
till to-morrow. 

A flood of mean gratitude swept over me that I had told 
him no more. I have never known a viler or more shameful 
ease than that that possessed me when it became plain that 
I could go back on him and he be none the wiser. I am 
not sure that my recreant lips had not the impudence to 
thank God that only I knew the depth of my cowardice and 
indecision. 

For my plan was utterly impossible of execution. It was 
as impossible to give him his chance as I had found it to 
refuse it. Racked and restless I tossed. I even imagine I 
had a slight touch of delirium, for fantastic thoughts and 
images seemed to dance and interweave and pop up and 



308 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

disappear again before me. I saw Derry back in Cambridge 
Circus again, and his black oak furniture played the most 
unamusing tricks. Sometimes his table would be a litter 
of newspapers and clothing and brown paper, with an over- 
turned teacup and the two halves of a torn novel lying on 
the top; then it would magically clear itself, and Jennie 
would be standing by it, a sort of mental extension of Jen- 
nie, whose face, however, I did not see. His catalogued 
shelves of books would disappear, and there would be an 
easel in the middle of the room, and canvases round the 
walls, and these would change to the rugs and lacquer of 
Julia Oliphant's little recess. . . . Then the whole of Cam- 
bridge would slide obliquely away, and I would see Jennie's 
back as she mounted the ladder of a South Kensington 
Mews. Then he would appear from nowhere and take her 
in his arms, and he had a golden beard, and the next mo- 
ment was riding in a hansom with nothing of Jennie visible 
but her slipper. . . . Julia Oliphant's slipper in the Picca- 
dilly, Peggy and her garters, lots of slippers, Jennie's danc- 
ing slippers, Jennie in the Dinard Bazaar, Jennie at the 
guichet slipping a note into his hand. The ticking of my 
watch on the table annoyed me, but I did not get up, and 
presently I had ceased to hear it. Then it came again, regu- 
larly, irregularly, once every four seconds, once every eleven 
seconds, tick-tick, darkness and the Light, tick-tick, dark- 
ness and the Light. . . . 

So I tossed, waking every now and then with a start to 
tell myself that something must be done where nothing 
was possible to be done. 

And so, like Peter, I was prepared to deny him ere the 
cock crew. 

I had, in fact, a touch of fever. The next morning I 
managed to dress for dejeuner, but when I entered the salon 
I must needs choose that moment to give a little lurch and 
stagger. Alec caught me. 

"Here, what's all this about?" he said. 

"It's all right." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 309 

He gave me a quick look. "It isn't all right. You'd 
better come upstairs to bed again." 

So I was undressed, and back into bed I was put, my 
protests notwithstanding. 

The affection with which I was treated certainly helped 
me very little in my resolution to glide like a snake noise- 
lessly out of this house, leaving my poison behind me. 
Madge was in and out the whole of the afternoon, a perfect 
angel of attention and comfort ; Alec hunted out an English 
doctor I am sure he believed that a French one would 
subtly and diabolically have made away with me. I was 
told that I must stay in bed for some days. I demurred, 
but I really doubt whether I could have got up. 

So they turned Ker Annie upside down for me. To leave 
father and mother and friends is a thing you have to do 
quickly and with immediate acceptance of the consequences, 
or not to do at all. You mustn't begin to let people be kind 
to you. 

And no less than in material things were they solicitous 
to keep from me anything that might worry me. Madge 
laughed away my apologies for the havoc I made of her 
engagements, Alec vowed that it was a top-hole way of 
spending a holiday to sit at my open window, pretending he 
was smoking outside, while the gentle summer breeze that 
stirred the curtains blew it all in again. I think his crown- 
ing kindness was to get in a barber daily to shave me. Were 
I to grow a beard I fear it would not be a golden one. 

And even Jennie visited me once or twice, which is very 
much indeed from seventeen who has never known a head- 
ache to one who has known more than he cares to think 
about. 

On Jennie's first two visits to me other people were in and 
out of the room ; but on the third occasion I was alone. It 
was mid-afternoon, and Madge and Alec, I knew, had gone 
out to pay a call. They had left me everything that I was 
likely to need until their return, and I had imagined the 
house to be empty. But Jennie tapped and entered, and 



310 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

asked me how I was. Then she crossed over and stood by 
the window, where the sun touched the gold of her hair and 
showed the shadow of her arms within her light sleeves. 

"Nothing very amusing to do this afternoon, Jennie?" 
I asked from my pillow. 

"No, only pottering about/' she replied. 

"Then won't you come and have tea with me presently?" 

"I'll order it now if you like." 

"Do, and then come back and sit with me unless it bores 
you." 

She went out, and presently returned. She was not 
particularly good about a sick-room. She gave a super- 
fluous touch to things here and there, and then bent over 
me and shook my pillow with a gesture that somehow re- 
minded me of that quick little run to her mother's side at 
the tramway terminus at St Briac. 

"Would you like me to read to you ?" she asked. 

"Thank you presently perhaps." 

"Did they change those flowers this morning?" 

I smiled. "There won't be any flowers left in the garden 
soon, I get so many." 

"Then there isn't anything I can do," she said helplessly. 

Poor child, I don't think that I myself was entirely the 
object of her concern no, not even though I was so blest as 
to be a link between her and a certain young Englishman 
who went about in French clothes and was known by a 
French name. I don't think she quite knew what she 
wanted, except that it was exquisite to be a little mournful, 
and to be doing something for somebody. In spite of that 
impulsive little gesture, I don't think her mother had her 
confidence. That was rather the compounding of a secrecy 
than a confidence. It was an atonement, a guilty little 
reparation that but locked up her secret the more securely. 
I am aware that young girls are traditionally supposed to 
fly instantly to their mothers with their troubles of this 
sort. I can only say that that is not my experience. Far 
more frequently they will fly to a confidante of their own 
age, and even once in a while to a person like myself. Her 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 311 

mother would be much, oh, ever so much to her; but she 
would not be told about that note that had been surrep- 
titiously slipped from hand to hand. 

"Well, what have you been doing with yourself for the 
last three days, Jennie?" I asked. 

A Brittany crock of genets made fragrant the room. 
Her eyes were fixed on the flowers. 

"Yesterday I went for a bicycle ride," she said. 

"Oh ? I didn't know you had a bicycle here." 

"I hadn't. I hired one." 

"Where did you go? Anywhere nice?" 

Instead of answering my question she said, with her eyes 
still on the flowers, "I've got something for you, Uncle 
George." 

"And what's that?" 

"Here it is." 

From some tuck in the region of her waist she drew out 
a note, which she handed to me. With my elbow on my 
pillow I read it. It was on a page torn out from a sketch- 
book, and it ran: 

"I hear you're laid up and hope you'll soon be all right 
again. I didn't thank you properly the other night; I 
couldn't ; you know what I mean. Don't worry about my 
not keeping my promise; that's all right; everything's as- 
you-were till you're about again. But then I want to see 
you as soon as ever you can. You get well and don't 



Slowly I folded up the note and put it into the pocket of 
my pyjama-jacket. She seemed fully to expect my silence. 
The shadow of a marten fled swiftly across the sill of the 
window. The house-martens built at Ker Annie. 

At last, "I see," I said slowly. "I see." 

She did not seem to think it necessary to reply. Neither 

was it. 

"I see," I said again. Then, "Yesterday you went 



312 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

cycling," I said. "What did you do the day before?" 

"I went for a walk." 

"And the day before that?" 

"I went for a walk too." 

"Jennie . . . were they supposed to know about these 
walks you know who I mean?" 

"Father and mother? No." 

"Where did they think you were?" 

"Don't know. I didn't say anything at all." 

"They've no idea you went for two walks and a bicycle 
ride with Monsieur Arnaud?" 

No reply. 

That is to say, no reply in words; but for anything else 
her reply was plain enough. In every line of her lovely 
resolute short-featured little face I read that they did not 
know, were not to know, and that in the last resort she 
didn't care a straw whether they knew or not. And I re- 
membered that in the matter of the note it was she who had 
taken the initiative, not he. A beautiful young woman is 
the devil from the moment when she gets too old to slap. 

But the thing was grave. He had given me an under- 
taking which, his note now assured me, he was faithfully 
keeping; but I had no undertaking from her. And bach- 
elor as I am, I am under no delusions as to what happens 
when mine, the proud, stalking, choosing sex, is marked 
down by its demure, still and emotional opposite number. 
Something can be done with us; we give undertakings and 
abide by them ; but what can be done when the Jennie Airds 
take the bit between those pearls of their teeth ? I shook my 
head. I shake it over the same problem still. 

"But look here, Jennie," I said quietly. "This is all very 
well, but is it quite playing the game?" 

This also she evidently expected. "About father and 
mother? I've left school. I'm old enough to think for 
myself. Mother says so. Anyway I'm going to. She 
always said I should." 

"But mother doesn't know about these walks and bicycle 
rides." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 313 

Obstinately she contested every little point, even a casual 
plural. 

"There's only been one bicycle ride." 

"One then. She doesn't know about it." 

"I can't help that." 

"But of course you could " 

"No I couldn't," she rapped out. "I mean I just can't 
help it. How can anybody help it? How can anybody do 
anything about it ? It's a thing that happens to you, and it 
happened to them before, and I expect they did just as they 
liked about it, and didn't care a bit what anybody said! I 
can just see mother if anybody 'd said she wasn't going for 
a walk with father !" 

"You can't see anything of the sort, Jennie. If I remem- 
ber rightly what your mother said, she had to sit still in 
her own carriage till her own footman opened the door. 
That was what happened when your mother was your age." 

"Well, they don't do that nowadays, and mother knows 
it," she retorted. 

The heartless logic of youth! It will turn your own 
words against you as soon as look at you. Because her 
mother had recognised that the world did not stand still 
she was to be made an accessory to this deception. 

"Then," I said presently, "if they don't know, ought I 
to know?" 

"You knew before," she said. "They didn't." 

"But they're bound to find out." 

"Oh, I expect everything will be settled by then!" she 
calmly announced. 

The dickens it would ! I lay back on my pillow. Fortu- 
nately the appearance of tea at that moment gave me a little 
time in which to collect my thoughts. Jennie removed 
various objects from the bedside table, took the tray from 
the maid, and began to pour out. 

"Then," I said by and by, "why aren't you bicycling 
or walking this afternoon ?" I wanted to have the position 
quite clear. If she could spend three days with him in suc- 
cession, why not a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth ? 



314 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"I had to give that note to you," she said. 

"Ah, the note! I forgot that. . . . Have you any idea 
what's in it?" 

She blushed crimson, flamed with reproach. All the 
same, I contrasted her shameless deception of her parents 
with this point of honour about peeping into an unsealed 
note to myself. These heaven-born young beauties draw 
the line in such odd places. 

"I never thought ", she said, biting her lip; and I 

hastened to set her right. 

"Good heavens, Jennie, you can't think that I meant thai! 
I meant in a general way, what the subject of it is." 

"I know what he thinks," she said, the fierce colour slowly 
retiring again. 

"Well, what does he think?" 

"He thinks you were perfectly ripping to him the other 
night, about not doing anything till you saw him again, and 
when I told him you were ill he was awfully upset, and tore 
a page out of his sketch-book and wrote the note that very 
moment." 

The devil ! . . . But I went on. 

"So he was sketching, and you went with him?" 

"Yes. He did a sweet sketch, with me in it," she breathed, 
her eyes softly shining. 

Only to see her and to go for bicycle-rides with her 
only to speak to her and to paint her among the glowing 
sarrasin, the green translucence of the woods, the golden 
seaweed of the rocks or wherever it was 

"Oh, he did! And where was this?" 

It was neither among the sarrasin, nor in the green woods, 
nor on the shore. 

"It was miles and miles away, right past Saint Samson, 
nearly at Dinan, at a chateau called La Garaye," she said 
softly. "I never saw anything so lovely. There's a huge 
wide avenue of beeches like a tunnel it's all in the middle 
of a lovely beech wood and there's a lovely soft grass-ride 
right down the middle. Then at the bottom there are two 
great masses of ivy that used to be the chateau gates. And 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 315 

past them are the little white bits of the ruins. And there 
was an enormous loud humming everywhere, like a hundred 
aeroplanes. That was them thrashing at the farm with 
four horses that went round and round. We rode our 
bicycles down the green ride and put them up by some 
farm-buildings. They don't a bit mind your going any- 
where you like, and they said he could paint if he wanted 
to. So he got out his things and I watched him. He didn't 
want me for the picture at once, because he had all the 
other to do first. Then he made me lie down in a fright- 
fully nettley place, but he only laughed and said I'd got to 
be just there because it was where he wanted me. My 
hands are all nettled yet, look. So he painted me, Uncle 
George, and that horse-thing never stopped humming, and 
oh, it was so hot and blue and drowsy I nearly went to 
sleep once. But the loveliest thing of all was afterwards. 
We climbed about among all those stones and ivy, and then 
there was a tower. Just like a castle tower, Uncle George, 
but not a hole or a window anywhere, except a place at the 
bottom just big enough to creep through. And what it was 
was an old pigeon-place, where they used to keep pigeons. 
All honeycombed inside with holes for thousands and thou- 
sands of pigeons. But, of course, there weren't any pig- 
eons there, only an old sitting hen among the nettles that 
scurried round and round and then clucked away. It was 
like being at the bottom of a kiln or something, with grasses 
and flowers and things round the top and the sky e-ver so 
blue! And all those thousands of pigeon-holes, all grown 
up with birch and ivy and nettles and that silly old hen ! I 
picked a bit of herb-robert. Oh, it was a heavenly place!" 

Heavenly indeed, I thought grimly. Heaven enough in- 
side that columbarium, with only a small hole to creep in at, 
and the muffled drone of that horse-gin, shut out by the 
walls that had once been filled with the cushing of a thou- 
sand doves and only God's blue looking down on them 
from the top! 

Heavenly enough to make your heart ache when you re- 
membered that there, in that ruined place of dead doves, he 



316 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

conscientiously sought to keep his promise to me while she 
had given never a word to take back. Oh, I saw it all right. 
No question about that. She took very good care that I 
should see it. ... 

For I was being as softly cajoled and canvassed and 
propagandised as ever I was in my life. Derry, piloting 
me from shop to shop into the Dinard Bazaar, had taken me 
by the arm ; but she wound herself in among my very heart- 
strings. And her plan was to upheap me with unasked con- 
fidences before I could say her nay. After that, if I guessed 
her thoughts rightly, there would be nothing for me to do 
but to respect the sacred but unwanted encumbrance. I 
should then be enlisted against Alec and Madge. Those of 
us whom the years have perhaps mellowed a little are ever 
at the mercy of calculated guile of this sort. To tell some- 
body something they don't want to know and then to put 
them upon their honour not to divulge it ! 

The boy, the father of the man, indeed! Save us from 
the machinations of the maiden who is mother of the 
woman ! 

For she was a woman. In little more than a week or 
two she had almost visibly altered, shot up into maturity. 
I had no doubt that he would keep his word to me; but 
only to see her, only to speak to her! Only! Though it 
were but looking, what inch of beauty was there about her 
of which I could dare to say, "His eyes have not embraced 
that, his glance has not been as his very lips upon it?" 
Though it were but hearing, what tone was there in the 
sweet gamut of her voice of which I could tell myself, "His 
ears at any rate have not heard that?" Not one. And 
under the homage of his gazing, under the flattery of his 
hearing, the last particle of her girlhood had turned and 
altered. That hair, so recently a ruddy plait to be "put up" 
on occasion, was now a bride's single garland, its golden 
strands to be unwound again on an occasion that was not 
even her parents' concern. Disdain was now all that young 
Charterhouse, young Rugby had from those pebble-grey 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 317 

eyes. And that tongue of hers, lately so petulant with the 
world, was now her subtlest weapon, to get under my guard, 
to seduce me with her confidences about pigeon-towers and 
what not, and by and by (I had not the slightest doubt) to 
say with a touching and heartfelt sigh, "Oh, what a com- 
fort it is to have one person one can tell everything to !" 

But this was all very well. Quite excellent to pat my 
pillow, and ask me whether my flowers had been changed, 
and to fuss about pouring out tea for me. But, while I had 
more or less got their measure singly, I had no idea what 
double-dealing they might not be capable of together. So 
as she still sat with shining eyes, dreaming again of that 
columbarium, I pressed to the next point. 

"So he painted you. All in one sitting?" 

She dropped the eyes. "I think he said it might take 
three or four." 

"In fact it might be cheaper in the long run to buy the 
bicycle instead of hiring it?" 

She was demure. "Oh, I don't think so, Uncle George." 

"What do they charge for the hire of a bicycle?" 

"I don't know, Uncle George. I haven't paid anything 
yet." 

"Then you still have it? Haven't they asked any ques- 
tions about it?" 

She looked quickly and innocently up. "Father? . . . 
Oh, it isn't here ! You see the tram's almost as quick to St 
Briac." 

"Oh! Then it's at St Briac?" 

"Yes. In the kitchen." 

"The kitchen where Coco lives?" 

"Yes. That one. But, of course, Coco's outside except 
when it's raining. And he has sung 'Quand je bois mon vin 
clairet.' He sang it beautifully." 

"I'm sure he did," I assented grimly. . . . "Now tell me 
a little more of what 'Monsieur Arnaud said when he was 
so grateful to me for not doing my plain duty." 

Her eyes were full on mine, with an expression I did not 



3 i8 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

understand. Somehow the pretty scatter of freckles across 
the bridge of her nose seemed to give the look an added di- 
rectness. Her lips parted, but not in a smile. 

"You needn't call him Monsieur Arnaud," she said. 

"What then ?" I asked quickly. "What do you call him, 
if I may ask?" 

At her reply the teacup almost dropped from my hand. 

"That's really what he said I had to tell you this after- 
noon," she said. "Of course I call him Derry, like you." 



VII 

I was hardly ill enough to have a temperature-chart over 
the head of my bed ; had there been one heaven knows how 
high into the hundreds it must have leaped. I had been 
prepared for progression, development. Swiftly as things 
seemed to have advanced, from taking a single bicycle ride 
with him to keeping a bicycle in his kitchen was after all 
only a matter of degree. But this, of so totally different a 
piece, positively stunned me. 

"Derry!" I echoed stupidly. "Derry what?" 

"Rose, of course." Then, rushing almost breathlessly to 
forestall me, "But of course I know it's the most fr-r-rigkt- 
ful secret! I know that only the three of us know. And 
it's splendid of you, darling Uncle George, to have stuck 
up for him the way you did! I wouldn't breathe a single 
word, not if they were to stick knives into me !" 

Her eyes brimmed with thanks for my loyalty, disloyalty 
or whatever it was. But what, in God's name, had he been 
mad enough to tell her ? Everything ? Had he told her the 
whole story rather than strangle her on the spot ? 

"Tell me what he said," I moaned in a weak voice. Better 
know the worst and get it over. 

"Of course I'm going to. But oh, how could I be so 
horrid to you about that note ! As if you would think that 
I should peep into a note anyway! You do forgive me, 
don't you ?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 319 

"If you're going to tell me tell me quickly," I groaned. 

So this, if you please, is what came next : 

"It was while we were in that pigeon-place, where the 
hen was. They look like rows and rows of little square 
holes, where the pigeons used to live I mean, but when you 
put your hand in they're quite big inside, all scooped out, 
lots of room for both pigeons and all their eggs. And one 
row hooks round inside one way and the other the other. I 
discovered that when I put my hand in, and I turned round 
to tell Derry. And do you know, Uncle George, he's got 
such a funny name for that place. He calls it the Tower of 
Oblivion. I didn't know what oblivion was, so I didn't 
know what he meant just at first, but I think it's a splendid 
name for it now. You see " 

"You were saying that you turned round to tell him some- 
thing." 

"I was just coming to that. So I turned round, and at 
first I had rather a fright, because I couldn't see him. I 
thought he'd gone, but I didn't see how he could, because 
there was only that one little way in and I was standing 
close to it. Then I saw him behind the bushes and things, 
all among the nettles, and his head was against the wall. I 
made a noise, but he didn't seem to hear me. So then I 
touched him. 

" 'What's the matter, M'sieur Arnaud ?' I said. Is some- 
thing the matter ?' 

"Well, he didn't move, Uncle George. For ever so long 
he didn't move. Then he turned round, and oh, his poor 
eyes ! I don't mean he was crying. He didn't cry once all 
the time. But he made me so anxious I didn't know what 
to do. 

"'What is the matter, M'sieur Arnaud? Do tell me 
what's the matter !' I said. 

" 'You mustn't call me that,' he said. 'It isn't my name/ 

" 'Not your name !' I said. 'But Sir George Coverham 
calls you that, and mother calls you that, and Sir George 
wouldn't have told mother so if it wasn't so, and they call 
you that where you live!' 



320 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

" 'They do, and it isn't my name/ he said. 'I want to 
tell you my name/ he said. 

"Well, I thought it awfully funny everybody calling him 
something that wasn't his name. So I said, 'Well, what is 
your name?' 

" 'Rose/ he said. 

'"What besides Rose?' I said. 

" 'Derwent/ he said. 'Derwent Rose. But George calls 
me Derry.' 

" 'George? Do you mean Sir George Coverham?' I said. 

" 'Yes. I sometimes call him George/ he said. 

"And then, Uncle George, he put his head against the 
wall again and went on saying to himself, 'The Tower of 
Oblivion, the Tower of Oblivion/ over and over again." 

I closed my eyes, but it was like closing them in a swing, 
so sick and dizzy did I feel. I had never seen that Tower 
in my life, yet somehow I seemed to be there walled in, 
cut off from the rest of mankind, with only that hot deep 
blue overhead, and the grasses that fringed the circular top 
minutely bright and intense against it. The loud droning 
of the threshing-gin at the adjacent farm seemed to be in 
my ears, but in my heart was a more moving murmur. 
Gentle and forgotten place! With what croonings, what 
flutterings, had it not once been astir ! Those little cavities 
into which she had thrust her hand were the cells of a once- 
throbbing heart. But who had built a Tower of stone to 
guard the dove's faithfulness? What masonry could make 
that, the very emblem of love, more secure? Of all birds, 
the constant dove to be thus immured ? Towers are for the 
defence of the helpless, not of that invulnerable meekness 
and strength. All the stones in the world could not more 
fortify those soft immutable hearts. Such humility, yet so 
stable: such defencelessness, yet so steadfast! It was in 
this wondrous place, thrice strong without but ten times 
strong within, that Derwent Rose had sought his atonement. 
He too, hard without, was all tenderness within. He had 
no choice but to lie to the rest of the world, but she must 
be told the truth. Arnaud would do well enough for others, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 321 

but he had no peace unless to her he was Derwent Rose. It 
was his comfort to tell her so, and that Tower was in truth 
his confessional, the Oblivion of his dead years. 

"But of course you know all about it, Uncle George," she 
went on. "I didn't, you see, and that's what made it sound 
so queer. So I said to him, 'But why do you call yourself 
Arnaud if your name is Rose ?' 

" 'Because something once happened to me,' he said. 

"'What?' I asked him. 

" 'I don't know,' he said. 'George doesn't know. Nobody 
knows. A doctor once tried to tell me, but he didn't know 
either/ 

' 'But what sort of a thing?' I said. 'What does it do?' 

" 'It makes me younger,' he said. 'I'm years and years 
older than I look. I'm not young at all.' 

" 'But I don't understand,' I said. 'If it makes you young 
then you are young, aren't you ?' 

"And then he smiled. I was so glad to see him smile. 
He'd been fearfully mopey up to then. 

" 'That's so,' he said. 'And anyway it's all over now. If 
it wasn't I shouldn't be telling you. If it wasn't over I 
shouldn't be here, Jennie.' 

"He called me Jennie for the first time. He hadn't called 
me anything up to then, ever. 

" 'Then if it's all over what are you bothering about it 
for ?' I said. 'Was it your fault ?' 

" 'No,' he said. 

" 'Then,' I said, 'if a thing isn't a person's fault I think 
we ought to be sorry for them, and it doesn't matter if it's 
all over. And,' I said, 'if Uncle George calls you Derry I'm 
going to call you Derry too. It really is all over, Derry 
dear?' 

" 'Look, Jennie,' he said. 

"And then, Uncle George, he looked up at the sky out 
of the top of the Tower, and bent his knee and crossed 
himself three times, like this." 

Over her young breast her hand did what his had done. 

" 'And you promise it wasn't your fault ?' I said. 



322 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

" That was my promise, Jennie/ he said. 

" 'Then,' I said, 1 don't want to hear another word about 
it. I won't listen. You're not to tell me any more.' 

"So I wouldn't listen, and when he opened his mouth I 
just did this " 

And laughingly, with her hands tight over her ears, she 
shook her head. She would no more peep behind his word 
than she would have peeped into his note. 

"And all this was yesterday?" 

"Yes." 

"Where is he to-day?" 

"I only saw him just for a minute this morning. He 
wouldn't let me go with him to-day. He said I must come 
to you and tell you what I've just told you. So I waited 
till father and mother had gone out and then I came." 

"And when father and mother come back? How do I 
stand? What am I to do?" 

She sat straight up. "To do, Uncle George? But you 
promised him!" 

"I promised him for the moment." 

"Well, this is the moment, isn't it? You'll see him as 
soon as ever you get up again, won't you?" 

"Between the two of you I don't seem to have very much 
choice," I muttered. . . . 

Suddenly through the open window came the sound of 
voices below. Alec and Madge had returned. Jennie flew 
to my glass, and then, apparently finding all well there, 
turned, smiled, and put her finger on her lips. She was 
busily packing up my tray when Madge entered. 

"Well, decided to live, George?" the kind creature rallied 
me. "All sorts of sympathetic messages for you from the 
Nobles and the Fergusons and the Tank Beverleys run- 
after creature that you are ! Been to sleep ?" 

"No." 

Jennie passed behind her mother with the tray. She gave 
me a half-veiled glance as she did so. Then, almost im- 
perceptibly, she brushed her mother's shoulder with her 
lips. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 323 

And well, I thought, she might ! 

"Jennie been reading to you ?" said Madge. 

"No, we've just been talking." 

"Well, you'll have somebody else to talk to the day after 
to-morrow. We didn't want to trouble you with the affairs 
of this world when you were at death's door, but who do 
you think's coming?" 

I made a great effort. "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" 

"Angel, whichever that is," said Madge. 

"I've angels enough about me." 

"Pooh! . . . Julia Oliphant's coming. So you'd better 
get your colour back in case she wants to paint that portrait 
here." 

With which comforting words she took up my bowl of 
quite fresh flowers and marched off to get some more. 



PART III 
THE CUT-OUT 



"But won't you find it a little cold?" 

"Cold!" Julia laughed. "If Jennie can I can; why, it's a 
heavenly day! But are you quite warm? You're the one 
we have to coddle." 

"Oh, I'm quite all right. Well, that's your tent, the 
green-striped one. I'll walk along to the rocks." 

She took the escholtzia-hued robe and other fripperies 
from my arm, nodded smilingly, and passed up the beach. 

The Airds and their set bathed, not from the crowded 
plage of Dinard proper, but in the quieter bay of St Enogat. 
The beach glistened with minute particles of mica, deposited 
in moire patterns as the wavelets had left them, and to touch 
that sand with your hand was to withdraw it again all in- 
finitesimally spangled. It sparkled like gun-metal in the 
rocks, floated in suspension in the green water. You would 
have said that the whole shore had been sown with that 
metallic powder with which children used to tinsel them- 
selves at Christmas parties. 

I crossed the tent-bordered plage towards the rocks. Al- 
ready a dozen bathers splashed and played. Every contour 
of wet limb reflected the warm gold, every rubber-capped 
head had its piercing little flash of sunlight. I looked for 
Jennie's yellow cap, but did not see it; she was still in the 
tent whither she had preceded Julia five minutes before. 
But I saw the Beverley girls, of whose mutual sufficiency 
Madge so strongly disapproved. Jennie was not to be 
brought up on those lines. . . . 

I lay down on a purple-weeded rock and watched the 
fruit salad of the bathers. Scattered over the beach where 
they had dropped them lay their bright wraps, the prints of 
their sandals patterned the mica. Tank Beverley's head 
could be seen, a dark dot a quarter of a mile out, and in the 

327 



328 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

green marge two little French children splashed, brown as 
nuts and innocent of any garment whatever. Their bare- 
footed mother knitted a few yards from where I sat, their 
father lay by her side with his panama over his face. The 
sun shone honey-yellow through the wings of the gulls, and 
far out a little launch crept among the rocks and sent its 
soft "thut-thut" over the water. 

Jennie and Julia were taking rather a long time to get 
ready, I thought, and I hoped all was well. For Jennie, if 
the truth must be told, was behaving abominably. She was 
far, far too submissive and sweet and self -effacing before 
the older woman altogether too good to be true and I 
happened to know that Madge had taken her to task about 
it a couple of days before. 

"I don't see why you can't call her just Julia if it comes 
to that," she had rebuked her. "She isn't a hundred, any- 
way. I do wish you'd stop saying 'Aunt Julia.' " 

"I'm very sorry, mother darling. Shall I call her Miss 
Oliphant?" 

As a matter of fact I had not since heard her use any 
form of address whatever. 

It was the third day after Julia's arrival, and my own 
longest walk since my touch of illness. Without even 
changing her travelling-things, Julia had come straight up 
into my room the moment of her arrival at Ker Annie, and, 
kneeling down by my bed, had taken both my hands into 
hers. 

"You poor old George!" she had laughed. "So this is 
what you've been and gone and done to yourself ! Well, we 
must see what an extra nurse can do." 

"Had you a good crossing?" 

"Well crowded wasn't the word ; but two nice dear men 
looked after me. I'd a scandalous flirtation with one of 
them; oh, I 'got off'; he was putting my collar round my 
neck for me before we passed the Needles. And may I 
solemnly assure you, George, that in Buckingham where 
I've been staying a male man wanted to marry me? Fact. 
And when I said No-could-do he accused me of encourag- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 329 

ing him and left the house the next day. Such is human 
life so gliding on. Have you fallen in love with a French- 
woman yet?" 

"Not yet." 

"Oh but they're so wonderful! They walk like lines of 
poetry. There was one on the boat coming over ; I suppose 
my cavalier didn't speak French very well, or he'd never 
have looked at me with her about. I don't know though 
it gives you a lot of confidence when you've been proposed 
to. ... Well, I must go and have a bath and change. I 
only peeped in to see you. 'Apres le bain,' as the Salon pic- 
tures say be good." 

And with a nod over the collar of her terra-cotta blanket- 
coat she had left me. 

Of our subsequent talk about Derwent Rose I will speak 
presently. 

They appeared together from behind the green-striped 
bathing-tent. The wind-blown wrap of escholtzia-orange 
and the green turban were Julia's; Jennie wore her white 
towelling gathered closely about her, and the yellow cap was 
pulled as low as her eyebrows. Julia is only slightly taller 
than Jennie. A good four feet separated the orange and the 
white as they advanced towards me. Julia saw me and 
waved her hand; Jennie made no gesture. Julia looked 
freely about her ; Jennie gazed straight ahead. The blowing 
aside of Julia's wrap showed a short-skirted bright green 
costume with ribboned sandals ; Jennie bathed in her plain 
navy-blue "Club" and her feet were bare. I rose to take 
their wraps. 

Except for one piece of advice she offered, Jennie did not 
speak to Julia. 

"I don't think I'd go beyond the point there," she said as 
her towelling fell to her feet. "There's rather a rip." 

She ran down to the water. Julia turned to me. 

"You all right?" she asked. "Here" laughingly she 
took the vivid wrap from my arm and put it about my 
shoulders. "There! Now you're all comfy. That'll keep 
both you and it warm for when I come out again." 



330 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

She nodded and followed Jennie. Julia Oliphant has 
very little to learn about walking from any woman, French 
or not. With her robe about me I sat down on the rock 
again. 

Atrociously Jennie was behaving. She had been told by 
Madge in plain words that she was expected to bathe with 
Julia that afternoon, and she intended that Julia should be 
quite aware of the quality of her obedience. Even in her 
little warning about the rip at the point there had been a 
delicately-measured ungeniality, and their attitude as they 
had walked from the tent together had been well, polite. 
She had now joined the Beverley girls in the water, and if 
Miss Oliphant cared to go beyond the point after being 
warned not to that was her look-out. She did not fail of a 
single attention to the older woman ; but every time she va- 
cated a chair or asked Julia whether she could fetch her 
book she had the air of saying to herself, "There, I did that 
and mother can't say I didn't." 

And I suppose it does make you a little cross when you 
are sent to bathe when you want to be off somewhere on a 
bicycle. 

Julia Oliphant had not bathed during that week-end she 
had spent in my house in Surrey. It had been Derry who 
had done the swimming. But I fancied it would have been 
different had she had that week-end to live over again. She 
had remarkably little to be ashamed of in the water. The 
long arm she threw out thickened, rather surprisingly and 
very beautifully, up to its pit ; and the man on the boat who 
had shown the solicitude about the collar of her blanket-coat 
had been quite a good judge of necks. Jennie's glistening 
dark-blue shape seemed still coltish and nubile by compari- 
son with Julia's ampler mould. But the twenty-odd years 
that separated them were Jennie's stored and untouched 
riches, not Julia's. It was Jennie, not Julia, who could stay 
half a day in that water and come out without as much as 
the numbing 'of a finger-tip. And the difference between 
Jennie's navy-blue "skin" and that other smart and tricky 
green was the difference between the young leaf-bundle in 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 331 

its sticky sheath and the broad opened palms of the chestnut 
in midsummer. 

As I sat there on the rocks, forgetting that escholtzia- 
yellow thing about my shoulders as the seniors forget their 
tissue-paper caps at a children's party, I pondered a resolve 
I had taken. Between Julia Oliphant and myself there had 
not hitherto been a single secret in anything that concerned 
Derwent Rose. But a secret there must now be. She might 
find out about Deny and Jennie for herself, but from me 
she should never hear it. Jennie was hardly likely to con- 
fide in her. Derry himself who knew? might. Him she 
had not yet seen. 

But we had spoken of him, and almost my first question 
had been to ask her whether she had been staying on in 
England in the expectation of his return. Her reply had 
been curiously, smilingly nonchalant. 

"No, I don't think so ; not altogether, that is. What does 
it matter whether I see him there or here?" 

"But you weren't seeing him, either there or here." 

"Oh, there wasn't any hurry. It's only three weeks. 
That isn't very long." 

"That depends. Three weeks with him might be a very 
long time indeed." 

"Oh, but if that happened again you'd have told me," she 
had said, with the same off-handedness. 

"I might not have done so. You left it entirely to me." 

"Well, no news is usually good news. And I wasn't wast- 
ing my time. I did get a proposal." 

"About that. And forgive me, because I don't mean it 
rudely. But is that a joke?" 

"Not a bit of a joke. He did want to marry me. So you 
see that's Berry's too." 

"What is?" 

"That is. The more let's say desirable I am, if I don't 
scandalise you, the more I have for him. And anyhow I'm 
here now." 

"Did you ask Madge to ask you ?" 

"Yes. In the end I thought I would. There was no 



332 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

hurry, but there was no sense in positively wasting time. 
Yon say he's at St Briac. Where's that? I don't know 
this coast." 

"Six or seven miles. A tram takes you all the way." 

"Then we'll look him up. But I want to do a bit of shop- 
ping with Madge first. Must have a couple of hats. I hardly 
bought a single thing to come away with." 

And her manner ever since had been for all the world as 
if something was inevitable, would come of itself, in its own 
good time, whether she lifted a finger to further it or not. 

It may sound fantastic to you, but I could almost have 
believed that when she had taken that yellow thing from her 
own shoulders and had put it over mine, she had invested 
me with something more than a garment, something almosf 
of herself. I had seen Jennie's disdainful glance at the 
coquetry with which she had cast it about me; almost in- 
solently she had allowed her own towelling to drop where 
it would; and Julia now enveloped me in a double sense. 
Cloak or no cloak, she claimed all my thoughts, all my gaz- 
ing. For I and I only knew why she was in France. Her 
errand was the deadlier the less haste she made. I had 
sought to interpose between him and Jennie because Jennie 
was too young; could I now step between him and Julia 
because Julia was too old? Moreover, both women now 
knew his terrific secret. The exquisite complication I had 
dreaded to entertain was upon us in its perfection. What, 
between the three of them, was to happen now ? 

For Julia he was on his way For Jennie he hoped to go 
back to sixteen. forward again. 

Julia's influence over him had But I could giiess what calm 
been to rob him of eleven and healing had brooded over 
years in a single night. him as he had stood with 

Jennie in the Tower. 



had strangely made her- Jennie knew nothing of this, 

self his scapegoat and had and yet had an instinct that 

left him lighthearted, inno- Julia Oliphant was a person 

cent, free. to be kept at arm's length. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 333 

Julia was still unaware that Jennie, his partial confession 
apparently his years had in the Tower notwithstand- 
ceased to ebb. ing, was unaware that the 

matter had any great seri- 
ousness. 

Julia had her knowledge of his Jennie was in possession of 
former youth. his present one. 

Julia would walk through Jennie would do no less to keep 
flame to find him. him. 



One drop of comfort I found in the whole extravaganza, 
and one only. Jennie's naughtiness might reach extremes 
of civility, but so far at any rate Julia was tolerantly good- 
humoured about it. For she could hardly be unconscious 
of the well, the bracing temperature of the atmosphere. 
But how long was that likely to last? Once more Deny 
seemed to have us all entangled in the web of his unique 
condition. Already my own surreptitious visits to him had 
made me feel little better than a slinking conspirator; the 
presence of Jennie's bicycle in that St Briac kitchen did not 
improve matters; and now, to cap all, Julia and I were to 
seek him out. 

Again I found myself weakly wishing that I could wash 
my hands of him. And again I knew that I could not. It 
seemed to me that there was nothing to do, not even any- 
thing to refrain from doing. The whole thing ran itself. 
It ran itself independently of any of us, as it had run itself 
with equal smoothness and efficiency whether Julia had 
stayed in England or had come over here. 

And I sat contemplating it, wrapped in her vivid cloak, 
wrapped in her lurid thoughts, my looks alternately seeing 
and avoiding her shape in the water, while the sun flashed 
on the grapes and apricots and oranges of that fruit-salad 
in the waves of St Enogat's plage. 



334 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

II 

They came out again, dripping, gleaming, Julia laughing, 
Jennie without a smile. 

"I'll wait here for you," I said to Julia as I replaced her 
wrap on her shoulders. 

"Right you are. Ten minutes. Come along, Jennie " 

The billowing escholtzia-yellow and the closely-gathered 
white retreated up the beach again. 

In a quarter of an hour Julia returned alone. She sat 
down by my side. 

"Jennie wouldn't come. She's taken the things in. 
George," she suddenly demanded, "is that child in love ?" 

I parried. "Is that a thing I should be very likely to 
know?" 

"Then I'll tell you. She is. All the signs every one. 
She can't sit still in one place for five minutes. Poor little 
darling !" she smiled. "I remember so well. . . ." 

"Wouldn't it be better if you were to take a walk after 
your bathe?" 

"What about you? Sure it wouldn't be too much for 
you?" 

"I should like a walk." 

"Come along then. I suppose I did stay in as long as was 
good for me." 

A steep stone staircase descends between the villas, in the 
chinks of which hawkweed and poppies and pimpernel have 
seeded themselves. At the top of it a winding lane leads to 
the church, and from this there branches off the Port Blanc 
road. In that direction we walked, and in ten minutes were 
among cornfields and hedges, clumps of elms and coppices 
of oak. Ploughs and chain-harrows lay by the footpaths, 
and the sea might have been a hundred miles away. 

"Sure you're not overdoing it?" she asked as we took a 
little path under a convolvulus-starred hedge. 

"Quite all right, thanks." 

"Oh, smell the air! This is a jolly place! Which way 
is St Briac from here ?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 335 

"Over that way." 

The dark eyes sent a message. "Well, now tell me what 
his painting's like. I expect it's as wonderful as his writing 
was." 

"It rather struck me I don't know much about it but 
I fancied it was on somewhat similar lines." 

"What sort of lines?" 

"The old story starting anew from the very beginning 
of everything nothing to do with anything else, past, pres- 
ent or to come." 

"Of course he would be the same. . . . But now tell me 
we've hardly had ten words yet, what with Madge and 
shopping and your silly illness and one thing and another. 
You say he's got to twenty ?" 

"Thereabouts." 

"And he hasn't moved since you know what I mean ?" 

"That isn't quite clear." 

"What isn't there clear about it?" 

"He thinks he's moving he hopes to move forward 
again." 

She stopped to stare at me. Already the few days' sun 
had softly browned her natural milky pallor. 

"He what!" she gasped. . . . "But that's wilder than all 
the rest put together !" 

"It's what he thinks. There's simply his word for 
it. He can't explain it. But he's staking everything on 
it." 

"Everything? What?" 

"His future course, I suppose, whatever that is. By the 
way, has Madge said anything to you about him ?" 

She stared harder than ever. "Madge! Does Madge 
know him?" 

"She doesn't know Derry. But she knows Arnaud. He's 
been to the house." 

"He's been . . . Oh-h-h-h!" 

You may call me if you will the most dunderheaded fel- 
low who ever meddled in things he did not understand. I 
deserve it all and more. All the same I must ask you to 



336 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

believe me when I say that it was not until that "Oh-h-h-h !" 
broke in an interminable contralto whisper from her lips 
that I saw what I had done. I had resolved that not one 
word of Jennie Aird's affairs should she learn from me. 
As much for her own sake as for Jennie's I had determined 
to spare her that. 

And now I had gone and told her that very thing ! 

For the knowledge of it leaped full-blown out of that 
long record of her own heart. Jennie was in love; Arnaud 
had been to Ker Annie; therefore she knew it, she knew 
it Jennie was in love with Derry. How should anybody, 
seeing him as Julia Oliphant had seen him at his former 
twenty, not fall in love with him? Young, sunbrowned, 
beautiful, grave only to see him, only to have him at the 
house for tea, was to be in love with him during the whole 
of the remaining days. Who knew this if Julia Oliphant 
did not? Jennie thenceforward would love him as she her- 
self had loved him through the unbroken past. And if he 
thought his turning-point had now come, forward into the 
future again he and Jennie would go together. 

That and nothing else was what I had told her. 

"Oh-h-h-h!" she said again. "I see!" And yet once 
more, "Oh-h-h-h ! I see!" 

And, losing my head once, in that very same moment a 
wilder thing still rose up in my heart to crown it with folly. 
I forgot that between Julia Oliphant and myself there could 
never be any question of love. Little difference it made 
that I now loved her, knew now that I had long loved her. 
For me she could never care. Yet I forgot that. It seemed 
to me in that overwrought moment that if Derry really was 
right, and on the point of living normally forward again, in 
one way the field of the future could be left to him and to 
Jennie Aird. Julia and I together could leave it to them. 
She in my arms (I was distracted enough to think), Jennie 
in his, would at least cut the knot it passed our wits to untie. 
In any case Derry would never again look at Julia Oliphant. 
He never had looked at her. But I looked and found her 
desirable, as other men had found her desirable. And why 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 337 

should not I too have whatever of good the remaining years 
could give me? 

So, under that convolvulus-starred hedge, with that sweet 
air in our nostrils and the whispering of the corn in our 
ears, I asked Julia Oliphant to marry me. 

Before coming out she had picked up and put on her head 
one of Alec's panamas. For the rest she wore a sort of 
rough creamy crape, with a wide-open collar, elbow-length 
sleeves, a cord round her waist, grey silk stockings and 
suede shoes. Little wisps of her dark hair were still damp 
from her bathe, and her skirt was dusted with particles of 
mica from the sands. Since uttering that "Oh-h-h-h !" she 
had not moved. 

"I see," she said again. "I see." 

"Then, Julia " 

"Oh, I see! I ought to have known the very first mo- 
ment!" 

"Then " 

She turned towards me, but only for an instant. Then 
she looked away again. "What were you saying?" she 
asked. 

"Very humbly, I asked you to marry me, Julia." 

"Queer," she murmured. 

"Is it so very queer ?" 

She gave a tremulous little laugh. "The way everything 
happens at once, I mean. Get yourself proposed to once 
and you go on. I shall know quite a lot about it soon. . . . 
I say, George 

"What, Julia?" 

"How long ago was that when he came to the house, I 
mean?" 

"About ten days ago." 

"And you there! What nerve! Did he let himself be 
introduced to you, or what?" 

"He came up and shook hands with me. In fact he car- 
ried everything off very competently." 

"Carried everything off . . ." she repeated, looking away 
over the corn. "And has he been since then?" 



338 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"We had tea with him in his garden one afternoon." 

"One afternoon . . ." she murmured again. "How does 
Jennie spend most of her time?" 

"I've been laid up in bed." 

"Of course," she nodded. Apparently she passed it as a 
good man's answer, as men's answers go. 

But my own question she did not appear to dream of an- 
swering. Except to compare it with another man's similar 
question she might not have heard it. Nor had I asked 
that question only as the solution of an otherwise insoluble 
problem. Happy I, could I have taken her into my arms 
there and then. So I waited, my eyes in the shadow of her 
panama, while she continued to look far away. 

Then, "I see," she said yet once more. "Of course I 
ought to have known in the tent." 

"In the tent?" 

"The bathing-tent. She could hardly bear to share it 
with me. But she let me have the little stool, and untied a 
knot for me, and carried my wet things home." 

"Madge Aird's daughter wouldn't behave altogether too 
unlike a lady." 

"Madge Aird's daughter's a woman," she replied. 

Then her whole tone changed. She confronted me. 

"That that you've just been saying is all nonsense, of 
course," she said abruptly. "You know it is. What hap- 
pened in July puts that out of the question once for all. 
How can you possibly ask that woman to marry you ?" 

"I have asked her." 

"She isn't her own to marry anybody. And I don't see 
how Derry can marry anybody either. What's he going to 
do forge papers, or impersonate somebody? . . . No, 
George; my way was the only way take what you can 
while you can." 

"Marry me, come right away, and have done with it." 

She gave me a slow sidelong look. 

"Is that the idea just a way out for everybody?" 

"Don't think it. I didn't begin to love you this after- 
noon." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 339 

"Proposals pour in once they start !" she admired. "Oh, 
how little we know when we're young, and how much 
when it's too late to make any difference!" 

"Julia," I said abruptly, "what do you intend to do about 
him ?" 

She smiled, but without speaking. 

"Are you going to see him ?" 

"That's a silly question. Of course I am " 

"Is it wise?" 

"I'm not wise. I suppose I should be Lady Coverham if 
I were wise." 

"What are you going to do about Jennie?" 

"Oh, I shan't fly out at her." 

"Marry me and come away." 

She shook her head. "That's the one thing I cm sure 
about." 

"Then don't marry me,T>ut come back to England." 

"And leave the field clear? I see that too. Of course 
you want to give her to him." 

"If you only knew how I've striven to prevent it!" 

Her hand touched my sleeve for a moment. "Poor old 
George always trying to prevent somebody from doing 
something! Has it ever occurred to you that that's some- 
times the way to bring it about ?" Then, imperiously, "Has 
he told you he's in love with her ?" 

"If he is in love with her, and has no eyes for any other 
woman living, and never will have, will you marry me 
then?" 

"Oh, we had all that years ago. Has he told you he's in 
love with her?" 

"Since you must know, he has." 

"Now we're getting at it. I thought you'd something up 
your sleeve. Now just one more question. Do you happen 
to know whether he's told her that?" 

You see what I was in her hands. She cut clean through 
my web of speculations as scissors go through cloth. I had 
resolved to tell her this, not to tell her that. The end of it 
was that I told her precisely what she wished to know. 



340 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"I've reason for thinking he hasn't," I said. "For one 
thing, he made me a promise." 

But she flicked his promise aside as she flicked the con- 
volvulus with her nail. She laughed a little. 

"Anyway I don't suppose he has^the least idea what's the 
matter with him. He never did know anything about 
women." 

But ah, Julia Oliphant, whatever mistakes you made in 
your life, you never made a greater one than that ! Me you 
might turn this way and that round your finger, but here 
was something beyond your knowledge and control. I 
knew what you did not know. I knew what had happened 
by those softly-illumined cars, by that earth-wall at Le Port 
gap, and that other night when Frehel had bidden the 
Crucifix move and come to life. It was not now he who 
knew nothing about women, but you who knew nothing 
about him. I grant you all your other Tightness; I grant 
you that I had drifted and bungled as men do drift and 
bungle in these things ; but here I was right and you hope- 
lessly and irretrievably wrong. He did know about 
women. Books he had flung aside, pictures he would fling 
aside, for these were but the dust out of which that loveliest 
flower bloomed. He did know about women, and all the 
beauty of his strange destiny had now swung over to Jennie. 
He had passed with her into the Tower of Oblivion, and 
Julia and I and the rest of the world for him and her were 
not. 

The Tower of Oblivion! It was his own name for it. 
Jennie had not understood him; the name had merely 
sounded sweet to her because it was his; but what apter 
emblem of his own life ? To find this new and smiling love 
in the place so hauntingly whispering with memories of the 
old ! There, in the very middle of the busyness of life, with 
a threshing-gin droning and the lad's whip cracking among 
the walking horses and man's simple bread making as it was 
made in the beginning, he had shut himself in with her and 
the blue heaven overhead. They had not kissed, but only 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 341 

to be there with her, only to be rid of the lie he lived to the 
rest of the world and to be all truth to her ! ... Julia Oli- 
phant would but bruise her heart against the stones of that 
Tower, thrice-strong outside but impregnably strong within. 
God or gland, it vanquished us all. He had found what he 
had so long sought, and the sooner Julia became Lady 
Coverham the better. 

I forget the precise words in which I reminded Miss Oli- 
phant that I was still waiting for her answer. She turned 
on me with eyes that so kindled that for a moment I thought 
she had reconsidered it. 

"George, tell me one thing. Do you really believe it 
that his clock's really set forward again?" 

I answered slowly. "I don't know. I won't say that I 
don't. Sometimes I almost have believed it. One has his 
word for the age he feels, and there's nothing else to go by. 
After all, going forward seems somehow more natural than 
going back. I've no other grounds for my belief." 

Somehow my words had not in the least the effect I in- 
tended. Everything I said or did seemed to work contrary 
to my intention. I saw her making a swift mental calcula- 
tion. She was a woman to be desired very thoroughly she 
had made it her business to be so. If I wanted her, if other 
men wanted her, so (I read her thought) might he be made 
to want her. What stood in her way ? A chit of seventeen 
in turkey-towelling! What was a trifle like that to daunt 
a ripe woman who knew coquetries with escholtzia-yellow 
bathing-wraps? If it only lasted a year ... six months 
. . . the rest of the summer . . . the rest of the summer 
of her life. . . . 

"Young and beautiful," she said softly with a quickening 
of her breath. "I remember I remember " 

"Then forget. He'll never look at you." 

"Ah, he thought that once before " 

"You brought him to the verge of ruin last July " 

"You say he's young and beautiful that's what I brought 
him to youth and beauty " 



342 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Unless he goes forward now if he begins to slip back 
again you know what he said his climacteric was six- 
teen " 

She threw up the white-panama'd head on the long throat. 
My eyes dropped before hers, my question was blown to 
the winds that set the corn a-rustling. I told you at the be- 
ginning of this story that I had never married. 

"And how," she said proudly, "if he had it in my arms ?" 



Ill 

Whether Madge and Julia were friends because of, or in 
spite of, the differences in their nature, I will not attempt to 
say. In the situation now in course of development at Ker 
Annie, however, they struck me as not so much different as 
opposite. Madge's bark is always infinitely more terrifying 
than her bite; but the more mischief Julia meditated the 
stiller she always became, except for a. little dancing play 
deep-drowned in her eyes. She had risk-taking eyes, and 
the expression in them, if you looked at her as if you won- 
dered whether she had counted the cost, was one of de- 
tached surprise that you should pause to weigh chances with 
the gorgeous adventure plain before you. 

And what a risk she now contemplated, certainly for him, 
perhaps more for herself! What the penalty of failure 
or of success might be to herself I cannot tell you, since 
I am not in the habit of speculating about what responsi- 
bilities ladies incur who love a man all their lives, grow up 
alongside him as a "jolly good sort," violently assail him 
when he clings as it were to a loop amid the dizzy curves 
of his life's track, and then, when he comes to rest and 
again begins slowly to revolve on the turn-table at the ter- 
minus, put out their hands to the lever once more. What 
she had taken from him, what she had given him in return, 
were mysteries beyond me. I merely realised that, if she 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 343 

undertook this in the spirit of adventure, it was adventure 
on a well-nigh apocalyptic scale. 

But what about him ? For him it was not a question, as it 
was for her, of a few weeks' madness and then a folding of 
the hands, the Nunc Dimittis and darkness. She would 
merely be putting the seal on a life that already anticipated 
its close ; but he would be asked to cut one off in the very 
moment of its re-flowering. He saw ahead of him that 
boon for which humanity has cried out ever since another 
woman gave her man the Knowledge in the Garden. "Ah, 
might I live again knowing what I know now!" . . . Si 
jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait! . . . He did know, 
he was able; and Julia Oliphant, discovering that she had 
done all for Jennie Aird, now sought to take it back again. 
For should ruin supervene, it would be Jennie, not Julia, 
who would now be robbed and wronged. I could hardly 
look at Julia, standing there by the hedge, without re-living 
those anguished moments in which I had ascended his stairs 
and knocked at his door, hardly daring to hope for an 
answer. He knew not that ultimately it was from Julia that 
he now had this manna and honey, this healing oil and wine. 
He only knew that he received them at Jennie's hands, and 
with this soft nourishment he had victualled his Tower. 

So what disaster might not befall if Julia were to intro- 
duce that yeasty fermenting element of herself all over 
again ? 

Slowly we returned together across the cornfields, I and 
the woman who had hardly deigned to refuse me. Since 
our final rapid exchange, that had ended with her demand 
"How if he had it in my arms?" not a word had passed be- 
tween us. In that one insolent sentence she had not merely 
put my pretensions out of existence : she had made them as 
if they had never been. That they could never be again I 
knew only too well. Therefore, in silence we passed under 
the shadow of St Enogat Church, crossed the little space 
opposite the Cafe de la Mer, and entered the winding lanes 
to Ker Annie. 



344 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

At the gate of the villa Madge met us with a peremptory 
question. 

"Where's Jennie? Isn't she with you?" she demanded. 
She gave a quick glance behind her as she spoke. 
Obviously she wasn't. Madge glanced over her shoulder 
again. 

"Then don't for goodness sake say she hasn't been. 
Alec's stamping up and down the garden says she's been 
seen with young Arnaud somewhere at the back of beyond 
on a bicycle. I sent her to bathe with you, Julia." 

"She did," said Julia quickly. 

"Then just tell him that and say she must have gone into 
town or something. I know she has been back, because I 
looked into her room and saw her half-dried costume. You 
quieten Alec down, George. Have you had tea?" 

But in spite of my efforts to placate Alec, I found the fat 
badly in the fire at Ker Annie. Alec raged up and down 
the pergola as if he had been caged within it. 

"Exactly what I said would happen ! I knew it all along !" 
he stormed. "Noble saw 'em no mistake possible, he says 
pedalling all over Brittany with Tom, Dick and Harry. 
. . . Where did she get that bicycle? I haven't seen any 
bicycle about here ! First I've heard of a bicycle !" 

"Simmer down, Alec. There's no great harm in a bicycle 
ride after all." 

"If she's been for one she's been for a dozen for all I 
know. She was sent off to bathe." 

"Well, she did bathe." 

"Were you there? Did you see her?" he challenged me, 
now suspicious at every point. 

"Yes. She bathed with Julia. I waited for them." 

"You waited for Julia, you mean. Nipped in and out so 
as to be able to say she'd been and then dashed off with this 
fellow, I suppose. Look here, he appears to be a protege 
of yours, but I want to know more about him before there's 
any more of this. What does he go about in that rig for? 
Why does he talk French like that?" (This last headed the 
list of his offences in Alec's eyes.) "There's something 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 345 

fishy about the whole thing. Jennie sees him sketching, 
evidently doesn't know any more than the man in the moon 
who he is, and goes up to him and speaks to him in French 
and he answers in English ! Then he says he's a level-time 
man, but touched in the bellows. He's about as much 
touched in the bellows as I am! . . . Who is he? Did he 
really stay with you ? How did you get to know him ?" 

"He did stay with me. He's perfectly straight. Don't 
make such a fuss." 

"Well, I expect Jennie's as much to blame as he is. They 
generally are. If I've told Madge once . . . anyway it's 
got to stop. Of course if he's a friend of yours that's an- 
other matter, but gadding about all over the place has got to 
stop. Is she back yet? I want to see her when she does 
come in." 

And so on. I left him in his cage, angrily knocking out 
his pipe against the lattice. 

The worst of it was that Alec was so very much tighter 
than he knew. I had ventured to assure him that our young 
French-speaker was perfectly straight, and you know how 
far that was true. In the wider sense who was crookeder, 
whose life more devious ? Not one straight step did his cir- 
cumstances permit him to take. Why, the only satisfactory 
way he had been able to hit on to provide himself with 
money had been his fantastic idea of fighting Georges Car- 
pentier, the simplest way he had. found of crossing the 
Channel had been to swim itl Straight? Too straight alto- 
gether. The world is not accustomed to people so straight 
that they go straight plumb into the heart of things like 
that. . . . And, merely as straightness, how was he now to 
acquire even an ordinary identity? Had he been anybody, 
had he in the past once possessed an identity he was able 
to acknowledge, ways might have been found. He would 
then have had a starting point. He might have invested 
himself with a name and place in the world by means of 
the French equivalent of a deed poll. He might have got 
himself cited by name in a civil court, have snatched a social 
existence even out of the formalities of registration atten- 



346 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

dant on a State Lottery. But not one of these ways was 
open to him. Nothing short of an act of creation could 
establish him. Nothing comes out of nothing, nothing can 
be made out of nothing. Stronger even than that Tower 
of stone is this other invisible Tower in which we all live, 
each stone an ego, its mortar the whole complicated every- 
day nexus of the social fabric. All that he was able to do 
was to make assertion that he was Arnaud, and let us take 
it or leave it at that. How Alec would take it there was very 
little doubt. 

Nor was there much doubt in Madge's case either. She 
might talk family histories and hidden scandals till the cows 
came home, but, in the end, the Airds' would be the last 
household into which any suitor would penetrate without 
the strictest investigation. Derry might palm off his Som- 
erset Trehernes upon us during a casual tea-hour, but Alec 
would now dive into the last pigeon-hole in Somerset House 
but he would know exactly who it was who aspired to be- 
come his son-in-law. 

Jennie appeared at about half-past six, and Alec's first 
demand was to be told where that bicycle was. 

"What bicycle?" she asked. 

"Haven't you come home on a bicycle?" 

"No, I came home by the tram, father." 

"Where from?" 

"From St Briac." 

"Haven't you been out with that fellow on a bicycle, or 
has a mistake been made ?" 

The game was up. "I did go for a bicycle ride." 

"With that fellow Arnaud?" 

"Yes, father." 

"You went immediately after your bathe?" 

"Yes." 

"Where's the bicycle now?" 

"I left it at St Briac." 

"Wherein St Briac?" 

"At his hotel, where mother and Uncle George and I went 
that day/' 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 347 

"Where did the bicycle come from?" 

"I hired it, father." 

"In St Briac?" 

"No, in Dinard." 

"And you keep it in St Briac?" 

"Yes." 

"Why there instead of here?" 

No reply. 

"Why in St Briac instead of here?" 

Still no reply. 

"How often have you been for these rides?" 

"About eight or ten times, father." 

"Did mother know about it?" 

"No, father." 

"Then that means that you've been practically every day 
fora fortnight?" 

No reply. 

"Very well, Jennie. Now listen to what I have to say." 

Enough. You see the style of it. Alec is an affec- 
tionate father, but, his grumbling indulgence to Madge 
notwithstanding, there are no two ways about his being 
master in his own house. The upshot of it was that a maid 
was to be sent to fetch that bicycle first thing in the morn- 
ing, and back it was to go to the shop where it had come 
from. Further, if Jennie wished to see this M. Arnaud 
again, it must only be by express permission from himself. 
There was plenty of amusement at the Tennis Club among 
young fellows they knew something about, and not another 
word. It ought never to have begun, but anyway it was 
done with now and need not be referred to again. She had 
better go and have some tea if she hadn't had any, and as- 
for the dansant to-morrow afternoon, if she wanted a new 
frock for it she might have one. Now run along, and don't 
be late for dinner. 

Of the five of us, Alec was easily the most cheerful at 
that evening's meal. His duty done kindly, he hoped, but 
anyway done he talked about anything but that afternoon's 
unpleasantness. Then, rather to my surprise, about half- 



348 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

way through dinner Julia began to second his efforts. We 
sat round the Ganymede, two men and three women, Alec 
between Julia and his wife, Jennie between Madge and my- 
self. Everybody, Alec included, was kindness itself to the 
silent child, and the dansant was talked of. The Beverleys 
were giving it. They had engaged a room at one of the 
hotels, and Madge had been helping to decorate that after- 
noon. 

"Those were the Beverley girls bathing with us this after- 
noon, weren't they, Jennie ?" Julia asked across me. 

"Yes." 

"Aren't they just a little stand-offish ?" 

"I don't know. I didn't notice. Are they?" said Jennie 
dully. 

"They're " Alec began, but checked himself. In the 

circumstances the upbringing of the Beverley girls was not 
the happiest of subjects, and Madge struck hastily in. 

"One gets almost sick of the hydrangeas here, Julia, but 
they're really most extraordinarily effective. We've put 
four great tubs of them, ice-blue almost, in the corners, as 
big as this table nearly, and against all that cream-and-gold. 
. . . Oh, Jennie! You know father says you can have 
whichever of those frocks you like. I should say the voile. 
Which do you think?" 

"I don't care which, mother. My last one's all right. I 
don't want another." 

Again across the table from Julia: "That's a darling one 
you're wearing now !" 

"Do you like it, Aunt Julia?" 

"Sweet!" 

"And oh, Julia," suddenly in a little outburst from Madge, 
"honestly, now ! Do you think I could wear those sleeves, 
or those not-any-sleeves-at-all rather you know the quite 
new ones, that show your arm from the very top of your 
shoulder ? You must, of course, with your arms it's your 
duty but I'm not so sure about me " 

"Stuff and nonsense, of course you can. And I'm cer- 
tainly going to," Julia declared. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 349 

"Bit French, aren't they?" said Alec over his canape. 
"I've seen 'em." 

"He's seen 'em, Julia !" Madge laughed. "Don't tell me 
after that that a man doesn't notice what a woman has on 
at any rate if there's as little of it as there is of those 
sleeves! But let's settle Jennie's frock first. / think the 
voile. And you can wear a hat with it or not, just as you 
like." 

"Would you very much mind if I didn't go, mother?" said 
Jennie dejectedly. 

"Frightfully," was Madge's cheerful reply. "Of course 
you're coming. And all to-morrow morning we'll try-on, 
all three of us. So that's the voile for Jennie and most 
decidedly those no-sleeves for you, Julia, with your 



IV 

The rest of the evening was the same: slightly false, 
slightly tremulous, a little off the note. I honestly believe 
that that "Aunt" Julia of Jennie's was a pure inadvertence, 
for she was far too low-spirited to be interested in anything 
but herself, her mood and her troubles. After dinner she 
went out into the garden alone, and Madge gave us a quick 
inclusive look. 

"Don't worry her, poor darling," she said with soft sym- 
pathy. "Let her have a good cry and she'll be all right to- 
morrow." 

"Let me go to her," said Julia. 

"I really wouldn't." 

"Very well if you think not. What about a rubber?" 

So Alec and Julia took fifteen shillings from Madge and 
myself while Jennie got over it in the garden. 

But I found difficulty in understanding Julia's new atti- 
tude towards Jennie. There had been nothing in the least 
degree hypocritical in her sweetness at dinner ; quite simply 



350 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

she had been nice and gentle with her. She had even inter- 
posed very quickly indeed when, for a brief moment, there 
had seemed a doubt as to whether Jennie had bathed that 
afternoon at all. But that she would hold unswervingly to 
her private purpose I was entirely convinced. Was her 
confidence, then, so insolently fixed that she had pity left 
over and to spare for this unhappy child who was to all 
intents and purposes forbidden to leave the house without 
permission? Could she toss her an alms out of her super- 
fluity ? Would her gentleness have been quite the same had 
she not known that that bicycle was being fetched back from 
St Briac to-morrow ? Or would she, had Madge not stopped 
her, have gone to Jennie in the garden with some such words 
as these : "Cheer up, Jennie ; you'll have forgotten all about 
this in ten days. When I^was your age I had these fancies, 
but I forgot all about them in ten days. You'll be in love 
with scores of young men yet ; nobody ever remembers any 
of them for long. Why, I've forgotten the very name of 
the boy I thought I was in love with when I was a girl. I 
can't even remember what he looked like. It seems hard 
for the moment, but it's over in no time. Cheer up, Jennie. 
There are lots of nice boys at the Tennis Club. Go and flirt 
with one of them, and forget about M. Arnaud. We all do." 

Would she have said something like that ? She was fully 
capable of it. At any rate I am fully capable of thinking 
she was. 

But, whatever the circumstances may be, a man can 
hardly ask a woman to be his wife in the afternoon, have 
his suit treated as if it had scarcely been heard, and finish 
the evening with Auction as contentedly as though nothing 
had happened. Even poor George Coverham has his private 
affairs, and it was I more than any of them who should have 
found myself by Jennie's side. Indeed, as Alec and Julia 
divided their winnings I rose and walked to the window. It 
was dark, but not too dark to distinguish that she was still 
there, a dim white figure leaning up against one of the pillars 
of the pergola. A half-moon had southed, and the iron- 
work of the roof -ridge of Ker Annie showed sharp against 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 351 

the silvery blueness as I stepped out. It had suddenly come 
upon me that if she needed my comfort, I needed hers 
hardly less. She was seventeen and I fifty, but that day 
had separated both of us from our desires. 

She heard my step, but did not change her position. 
Anyway she had had a full hour to herself. It was she who 
spoke, and without preface. 

"I wished you'd come," she said. 

"We've been playing bridge." 

"I very nearly didn't come home at all." 

"Why, Jennie?" 

"I knew I was going to catch it. Old Noble needn't think 
he's the only person with any eyes. I saw him too. I pre- 
tended not to, but I did." 

"I was afraid it was only a question of time," I said with 
a head-shake. "Where was it?" 

"The rottenest luck!" she answered softly and bitterly. 
"Nobody but that horrid old man on his motor-bike would 
have thought of going there ! Right up a little lane, it was, 
and we'd put our bicycles under the hedge, and we were 
sitting against one of the stocks. That dark red stuff what- 
ever they call it six bundles together and then another like 
an umbrella on the top. He barged into one of the bicycles, 
clumsy thing, and then came to tell us that we oughtn't to 
leave them there in people's way. Derry shoved me behind 
the stook, but it was too late. I did think he might just pos- 
sibly have the decency to keep his mouth shut, but I suppose 
that was too much to expect. So I knew there'd be a row." 

"And of course Derry knew there'd be a row too ?" 

"Yes." 

I sighed. "Well, the row's over now. Better let the 
whole thing drop. Your father's perfectly right, and you 
were bound to get found out sooner or later." 

She made no reply. 

But she returned to her luckless plaint a moment later. 
She struck the upright of the pergola softly and vindictively 
with her hand. 

"It was all that beastly bathe and Miss Oliphant's being 



352 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

late ! We should have been all right if she'd been there at 
the proper time !" 

"I'm afraid that was my fault, Jennie. I walked rather 
slowly, and Miss Oliphant waited for me." 

"I know ; of course it had nothing to do with you at all. 
. . . Then she goes and gets her things into knots, and I 
have to untie them, and that costume of hers is as bad as 
getting into a ball-dress instead of just a skin like nearly 
everybody else! Anyway the sea's there if she wants to 
bathe, and she can swim as well as I can if she does get into 
a current, and it isn't as if she needed a chaperone " 

"Jennie, my dear, be reasonable!" I begged her. "You 
can hardly blame Miss Oliphant for for what your father 
was told." 

"Oh, I'm not blaming her ! But it makes you angry when 
stupid little accidents like those " She swallowed. 

"I'm afraid stupid little accidents fill rather a large place 
in the world, Jennie." 

"I hate them having anything to do with me anyhow. And 
with having to take the towels home I only just caught the 



"What's that?" I took her up. "You did catch the tram? 
Then it wasn't that that made you late at all. You'd have 
been waiting for the tram if you hadn't been waiting for 
Miss Oliphant." 

"Well, I don't care. It's all all " 

She did not say what, but hit the pergola with her hand 
again. 

I was too sorry for her to be hurt by her words about 
Julia. That little slip about the tram had completely be- 
trayed her, and it was against chance, and not against Julia, 
that she sought an occasion. Nevertheless the merciless mis- 
trust of youth lay behind. The beginning and end of it was 
that she didn't like Julia, and her young heart had not yet 
learned the duplicity that makes us more rather than less 
sweet to those whom we dislike. She broke out again : 

"And I won't go to that dance to-morrow! I won't be 
scolded and given a new frock and told I mustn't go out of 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 353 

the house! Mother and Miss Oliphant can go without me, 
and when I get back to London I shall earn my own living 
and I shall be able to do what I like then !" 

"Very few people who earn their own living do what they 
like, Jennie." 

"Well, it'll be a change anyway," she retorted. 

A cheerful call of " Jen-nie-e-e !" came from the house. 
We all used a marked brightness in speaking to Jennie that 
evening. 

"Yes, mother I'm only with Uncle George." 

"Don't be long, darling." 

"I'll bring her in presently," I answered for her ; and we 
continued to stand side by side. 

I suppose that ordinarily a man of my years would keep 
such a dismissal as I had received that afternoon locked 
in 'his own breast, or would at any rate hesitate before shar- 
ing it with a young girl. And I did hesitate. But trouble 
is mysteriously lightened when it is merged in another 
trouble, and to cheer Jennie up was the aim of all of us 
that night. And I think that perhaps the Jennie I wanted 
to tell was Jennie the woman, not Jennie the child. 

So "Jennie," I said quietly, "you're not the only one." 

"What do you mean?" she asked. 

"I've had my medicine too this afternoon." 

"Your medicine?" 

"Oh," I took myself up, "not that kind of medicine. I 
mean that you're not the only one who's had to go through 
it this afternoon." 

"I don't understand you, Uncle George." 

"While you went for a bicycle ride I went for a walk with 
somebody else." 

"You went for a walk with Miss Oliphant, didn't you?" 

"Yes. And I asked her not to remain Miss Oliphant any 
longer." 

I felt the eager uprush of her solicitude. "Oh, Uncle 
George ! Do you mean you asked Miss Oliphant to marry 
you?" 

"Yes." 



354 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"So you're engaged?" The words jumped from her. 

"No." 

"Hasn't she decided yet?" 

"Yes, she's decided." 

"What!" A deep, deep breath. "You don't mean that 
she said No ?" 

"I'm afraid she did." 

"Oh!" 

She threw her arms about my waist and held me strongly. 

"Oh! Poor Uncle George!" 

"So you see we're in the cart together, Jennie. I thought 
I'd tell you. I don't suppose I shall ever tell anybody else." 

And I knew that I could not have told her three weeks 
before. That is how we with our belated loves strike the 
young we of the Valley of Bones. Nevertheless my 
mother's embrace had been hardly more maternal than was 
the pressure of those seventeen-year-old arms that night. 

Then, with another "Poor, poor Uncle George!" she re- 
leased me. Her next words broke from her with a vivid 
little jump. 

"Oh, how I hate her now !" 

"Jennie, Jennie! You can't hate anybody I've just told 
you that about !" 

"Oh, I can ! Worse than ever ! To think of her cheek in 
refusing you ! She ought to have been proud instead of 
playing cards all the evening!" 

"Playing cards isn't a bad thing to do. I played cards 
too." 

"Pretty poor look-out for her if she's in love with some- 
body else anyway!" she commented. 

"By no means, Jennie. Other people than I are in love 
with her. But what I want to ask you is whether you can't 
be nice to her for my sake." 

"I'll do anything I can," she said bitterly. "If you say 
she was awfully kind and gentle to you about it that might 
help a bit." 

"Then let me say it. She was awfully kind and gentle." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 355 

"And so she ought to be ! But is she in love with some- 
body else, then?" 

"I think she doesn't want to get married/' 

"I don't believe that!" declared Jennie flatly. "Why, sti2 
thinks about nothing but clothes and who's watching her 
and if she's looking all right!" 

"Is that being kind to her, Jennie?" 

"No it isn't, and I will try, but I didn't like her before, 
and I'm only trying now because of you. Why did she ask 
mother if she might come here, especially if she knew you 
were in love with her and you were here ?" 

"I hadn't told her I was in love with her." 

"Don't tell me she didn't know, for all that," was the 
unbelieving reply. 

"Well, well. . . . There it is and we must make the best 
of it. You try to make the best of things too, my dear. 
Shall we go in?" 

Whether I had done Julia any great service in Jennie's 
opinion was doubtful. I had at any rate given Jennie some- 
thing else to think of. And that was something. 

Contrary to my expectations, I slept immediately and 
deeply that night. It was nine o'clock in the morning be- 
fore I awoke, half -past when I descended. I found Madge 
in the salon. 

"I say, what's become of Julia?" she asked. "Though 
I don't see how you could very well know seeing you've 
only just this moment come down." 

A maid was clearing away the petit dejeuner. 

"Madam," she said. 

"What is it, Ellen?" 

."Miss Oliphant left word she'd be back at half-past 
eleven." 

"Has she gone out? But we were to go into Dinard this 
morning !" 

"She's gone to St Briac, madam, and she said as she was 
going to see somebody at the Golf Club she might as well 
save one of us a journey and bring a bicycle back. It 



356 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

wasn't exactly your orders, madam, but there's a deal to do 
this morning what with this dance, and as Miss Oliphant was 
so kind I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind." 

"Oh, I don't mind, except that it doesn't leave us much 
time for shopping. I shall go into Dinard, and you'd better 
tell Miss Oliphant to follow me when she comes back." 

"Very good, madam." 

"Anyway," said Madge, turning to me, "it certainly does 
save one of the maids a couple of hours, as long as Julia 
doesn't mind. But who has she gone to see at the Golf Club 
at nine o'clock in the morning?" 



The dances of my time were the waltz, the cotillion and 
the quadrille, and as I am not a Pelmanist I have never 
acquired the dancing- fashions of to-day. So I stood by 
one of Madge's tubs of hydrangeas and watched. The 
large cream-and-gold room had a glazed end that opened 
on to the terrace and overlooked the crowded plage be- 
low, and when I wearied of watching the dancers I walked 
out on to this terrace, and when I was tired of watching the 
people who moved in and out among the tents and umbrellas 
and deck-chairs on the beach I returned to the dancing-room 
again. And much of the time I moved about out of sheer 
restlessness and apprehension. 

Jennie had come to the Beverleys' party after all. She 
danced occasionally with young Rugby or young Marlbor- 
ough, but kept more often close to her mother's side. And 
Julia Oliphant was there, not dancing at all, talking to 
Madge only infrequently, but gaily enough to everybody else 
with the single exception of myself, whom (it seemed to 
me) she avoided in the most marked fashion. As for the 
others, they danced in flannels and blazers and varnished 
evening shoes, and the Beverley girls danced with one an- 
other. 

What had happened at St Briac that morning? The ques- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 357 

tion gave me no rest. Had Julia seen Derry ? Idle to ask ; 
of course she had. What had passed between them? Use- 
less to try to guess. I had glanced at the Indicateur. She 
had caught the tram at St Enogat at eight-thirty-four and 
had taken the ten-fifty-three back, reaching St Enogat again 
at eleven-nineteen. Actually she had had two hours of 
but seven minutes at St Briac, and that was all I knew. 
Again she had seized her chance with ruthless instancy. 
Except for a night's rest, the very moment Jennie had been 
out of the running she had been at the door of his hotel. 
She had even had the effrontery to use Jennie's own bicycle 
as her pretext. 

And now why, when I was in the dancing-room, did she 
seek the terrace, and why, when I went out on the terrace, 
did she immediately enter the dancing-room again? 

She wore the sleeveless frock; and "Oh Juno, white- 
armed Queen!" I had murmured to myself when my eyes 
had rested on it. ... But, whatever her other attempts had 
been, those arms at any rate he had not seen that morning, 
for the simple reason that the frock had only been pur- 
chased and hastily made ready on her return. But its pur- 
chase was not to be dissociated from him. With him and 
him only in her mind she had chosen it. What other plans 
had she in her mind ? Was she now going to get a bicycle 
she, whom it was impossible to forbid to see whom she 
pleased and whenever she pleased? Would she go with him 
to that dove-haunted Tower, recline with him among the 
sarrasin-stooks with none to say her nay? And would her 
hosts see as little of her at Ker Annie as I had seen of Jen- 
nie during the days I had spent in bed ? 

Dire woman dire, and capable de tout! 

But even my preoccupation did not quite blind me to the 
prettiness of the scene about me. Whether inside or out 
was the prettier I will not say. They had improvised tennis 
on the beach, and from the tall diving-stage forty yards out 
lithe figures poised, inclined, and dropped gracefully down- 
wards in the swallow-dive. The brightly-clad melee almost 
hid the dowdy sands. Back in the dancing-room the tall 



358 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

cream pilasters with the gold capitals supported the sweep- 
ing oval of the ceiling, painted with Olympian loves; and 
bright hair, bright faces, light ankles, passed and interpassed 
before the eye could catch more than a blended impression 
of the total charm. The band was playing that which these 
bands do play, the fiddler on the little rostrum alternately 
conducting and using his bow, and 

And this time I really thought I had Julia pinned down. 
Madge was on one side of her, talking with animation, and 
Jennie stood on her other side. Yes, I thought I had her 
cornered. She could hardly break away in the middle of 
one of her hostess's sentences. I advanced. 

But she deftly eluded me. Madge had turned with an 
"Oh, here he is!" and in that moment Julia held out both 
her hands to Jennie. 

"Come along, Jennie," she said, "if those Beverley girls 
can dance together we can." 

But I will swear that it was only because of her promise 
to me the night before, that Jennie allowed herself to be led 
away. 

I watched them as they stood balanced, bodies close to- 
gether, foot alternating with foot. Jennie never once looked 
at Julia, but Julia's dark eyes smiled from time to time on 
Jennie's face. And present with them in some strange way, 
hauntingly about and between them, he he seemed to be 
there : young, sunbr owned, and beautiful as he had formerly 
been, young, sunbrowned and beautiful as he was to-day. 
A quartette seemed to be rhythmically balancing there, one 
of her, one of her, two of him. 

Then, seeing my look, Julia frankly smiled at me for the 
first time. 

Jennie also saw me, but did not smile. She would dance 
with Julia for me, but she would not pretend to smile over 
it. 

Twice, thrice round the room they moved, the woman who 
had refused me yesterday and would not be denied him to- 
morrow, the girl who had glowed with angry compassion 
for me and knew in her feminine heart that that smiling 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 359 

partner had not offered to fetch a bicycle from St, Briac 
that morning without having a reason for it. ... 

"A penny for them, George," Madge's voice suddenly 
sounded at my side. 

"Eh? I was only thinking of those two." 

"Julia and Jennie? I'm glad Jennie's come round and 
is behaving with something like ordinary decency again. 
. . . And by the way, that about that bicycle of Jennie's is a 
funnier mix-up than ever now." 

"How so?" 

"Well, Julia saw young Arnaud this morning. Rather a 
difficult position for her, and I can't imagine why she of- 
fered to go, seeing she'd never set eyes on the young man 
in her life. But she seems to have done the best thing 
possible." 

"What was that?" 

"She never once mentioned Jennie's name. She simply 
said that she understood that a bicycle was to be fetched 
back to Ker Annie, and as she was coming out that way 
she'd said she'd call for it. It seems to have been quite all 
right. He didn't ask any questions either ; he got it out and 
put it on the tram for her himself." 

"The same tram? She came straight back?" (I may 
say that there is only one tram to St Briac, which runs back- 
wards and forwards). 

"No, the next journey. It had gone, so she had to wait. 
She tried to ride the bicycle, but couldn't quite manage it. 
So he showed her his pictures, as he did to us." 

"Before she went to the Golf Club, or after?" 

"She didn't say." 

"And he didn't even ask why the bicycle had been sent 

for?" 

"Not a word about it. He just put it on the tram. 

I can't say I much liked the look of this. I remembered 
how he had formerly bamboozled me. 

"Then he simply accepts the situation?" I said. 

"Whatever it is, apparently." 

"What do you mean by that?" 



360 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Well, that's the funny part. What is the situation? You 
see, Arnaud's knowing you complicates it. If he hadn't 
known you I expect Alec would have sent him about his 
business at the double. Not that you're to blame in any 
way ; it's nothing at all to do with you. But then is Jennie 
to blame either for falling in love with the delicious creature? 
I told Alec so. Oh, we had a lively hour yesterday while 
you and Julia were out bathing and walking and enjoying 
yourselves ! Alec blustered, and he wouldn't have this and 
he wouldn't have that, but I asked him, 'Where was the 
harm if the young man came round in a straightforward 
way and took his chance with the others?' 'I don't call this 
straightforward,' he said ; and of course I could hardly say 
it was, but we've all been young once. Anyway, the long 
and the short of it was that there's to be no more bicycle- 
riding, but he hasn't forbidden her to see him provided 
everything's above-board and we're told about it." 

"Was that a concession for my sake?" 

"It's for Jennie's sake. It's her happiness I'm thinking 
about. You've nothing to do with it." 

"Except to provide his credentials," I thought, but said 
nothing. 

I begin to like it less and less. Not one single thing about 
it did I like. Julia was supposed not to know this Arnaud, 
but that had not prevented her from thrusting herself into 
his affairs and lying unblushingly about an appointment at 
the Golf Club seven miles away at nine o'clock in the morn- 
ing. And if Madge thought that Julia and Jennie were "be- 
having with ordinary decency" at that moment, so did not 
I. As for Deny, honestly I was afraid of him. He had 
had a whole night in which to think over the almost certain 
consequences of that surprise among the sarrasin stooks, and 
if he was caught without a plan he was not the man I 
took him for. Julia might think she had scored during 
that hour and a half when he had shown her his pictures, 
but the change was just as likely to be in his pocket. Probably 
he had expected that that bicycle would be sent for before 
the day was many hours old. The only thing he could not 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 361: 

have expected was that Julia Oliphant would come in per- 
son for it. 

Then the dance ended, and Julia, as barefaced as she was, 
barearmed, came straight up to me, wide-smiling, daring. 

"Well, George! Good morning! Enjoying yourself ?" 

"Hadn't Deny a nerve !" she had said to me when I had 
told her about the tea-party at Ker Annie. I don't think 
his nerve surpassed her own. I looked straight at her. 

"Since it's good morning, come for a turn," I said. 

Still smiling all over her face, she placed a resplendent arm 
on mine, and we passed out on to the terrace. 

She wore an immense white hat, so cavalierly dragged 
down on one side and so arrogantly jutting up on the other 
that from certain points you had to walk half way round 
her before you saw her face at all. One eye lurked perma- 
nently within the recess of that outrageous brim. She had 
also done something to her lips. 

There were little round tables on the terrace, and at one 
of these we sat down, vis-a-vis. She placed the backs of her 
clasped hands under her chin and sat there, magnetising me. 

"Well, how goes it?" she said. 

"I hear," I said, "that you're learning to ride a bicycle." 

"No, George." 

"What's that?" 

"Not a bicycle. Only a free-wheel. I rode a bicycle 
years ago. It's only the free-wheel that's a bit tricky." 

"You saw him?" 

"Of course. Didn't Madge tell you?" 

"And he knew you?" 

"My dear George, do pull yourself together ! He was ex- 
pecting me !" 

"What ! By appointment ?" 

"No, no, no, I don't mean that. I didn't write or send him 
a telegram or anything of that kind. But, of course, he 
knew I was here. He knew days ago before I came prob- 
ably. What wculd be the first thing Jennie'd tell him ? That 
they were expecting a visitor, but it needn't make any dif- 
ference to their meetings. So? of course he was expecting 



362 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

me. Perhaps not quite so early in the morning, but oh, 
quite soon!" 

"What I meant was, did he recognise you ?" 

"Recognise me ? Why not ? He called me Miss Oliphant 
and showed me his sketches. They're" the eye I could 
see sparkled, taking in the whole bright terrace "they're 
glorious V 

"What about the bicycle?" 

"Glo rious! He's a divine painter! Why, his books 
are like sawdust after his painting! I don't paint worth a 
rap myself, but oh, I know celestial stuff when I see it !" 

"What did he say about the bicycle?" 

"I didn't go there to talk about bicycles. I went there to 
see his glorious pictures and his glorious self !" 

"And incidentally to meet an apocryphal person at the 
Golf Club." 

"Pooh !" She took that in her stride. "But about those 
pictures " 

"Leave the pictures for a moment. Why have you avoid- 
ed me the whole afternoon until you came up a moment ago 
and said good morning?" 

"Surely you can guess that?" Again the fascination of 
the smile. 

"Guessing's lost some of its novelty for me lately." 

"Well, I wanted to dance with Jennie, you see." 

"I'm afraid I don't see." 

She looked at me quizzically, reflectively. "N o. Per- 
haps it isn't as simple as I thought. But you were glad 
when I danced with Jennie, weren't you ?" 

"I won't say glad. I was very interested." 

"Why?" 

"You two and him. That interested me enormously." 

"Well, now you've very nearly got it. That dance was 
our understanding, Jennie's and mine. We had it all out." 

"You didn't appear to be talking much." 

"I don't think we spoke three words, but we had it out 
for all that." 

"That's the kind of thing I give up." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 363 

"Make an effort, George. You don't think I'd do any- 
thing unfair, do you? As long as there was a fair way left, 
I mean?" 

"I don't even know what you mean by fair." 

"Well, you're on her side, whether you know it or not. 
It took me exactly one tenth of a second to see that yester- 
day. You want him to get going straight ahead again and 
marry her. Don't you?" she challenged me with a brilliant 
look. 

"Never mind my answer for the present." 

"Well, you want that, and I want something quite dif- 
ferent." 

"Jennie doesn't even know that you know him." 

"What ? How do you know what he's told her about me ? 
Anyway, even if he hasn't, she knows I didn't fetch that 
bicycle for nothing. She smelt something in the wind, and 
now she knows perfectly well what it is.' 

"From that dance? Wonderful dance!" 

"It's your sex that's wonderful. If you don't believe me, 
ask her." 

"I don't think it will be necessary. There's just one thing 
you've forgotten." 

"What's that?" 

"Him." 

"Oh, I've forgotten him!" she smiled, touching the red- 
dened lips with her fingertips. 

"Him and what he may do. I think you'll find you've 
left that out of the account. We shall see. ... So I take 
it you dodged me all the afternoon because we hadn't all 
been properly introduced to the new situation, so to speak? 
Is that it?" 

"Yes, that's quite good. There's no stealing advantages 
now. Everything's on the square, and what sort of a ver- 
mouth do they give you here?" 

With that I asked her a question that for the moment 
surprised even her. I asked it perfectly seriously, seeking 
not only the unblinkered eye, but also the one within its 
deep ambush of white hat-brim. 



364 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Julia, are you yourself in every respect the same woman 
to-day that you were before we had our talk yesterday?" 

She turned her head to watch the tennis-players on the 
sands below, the swallow-divers from the tall stage. She 
turned it further, and her gaze passed from the clustered 
villas across the bay to the awnings of the hotel, the sunny 
white of the balustrade, the waiter who approached in an- 
swer to my summons. Then she looked at me. 

"I know what you mean. Not just this hat and a touch 
of lipstick and these" she showed her arms. "I'm the 
same, of course, but I suppose I'm different too. And I'm 
going to be different. Ask Jennie. She knows. Any 
woman would know just by dancing with somebody and 
never saying a word, George. One keeps one's eyes open 
;and adapts oneself. Jennie knows all about it. Ask her." 

And the flashing, daring, confident smile, which had van- 
ashed for a moment, reappeared. 

It was her request for a vermouth that had prompted 
my sudden question. All at once I had found myself won- 
dering who the man was, in Buckinghamshire apparently, 
who shared with myself the privilege of having been refused 
by her. Not that I was interested in his identity ; but from 
him, or from the man who had been attentive to her on 
the boat, or from somebody else, or from a whole series of 
.men for all I knew, she had the slang is required "picked 
up a thing or two." It was a far cry from that first cock- 
tail in the Piccadilly to this hat, this revelation of arms, 
these conscious coquetries with bathing-wraps and auction 
with Alec Aird. Mind you, I knew as surely as I sat oppo- 
site to her that not one of these fellow-unfortunates of mine 
had had a scrap more from her than I had had myself. 
They had been dismissed without compunction the moment 
she had had what she required of them. On Derry and on 
Derry alone her dark eyes were unchangingly set. No 
trifling, no flirtation by the way, any more than to the re- 
hearsal is given the unstinted kiss of the passionate perform- 
ance. Therefore in this she was single and unchanged. 

But she had seen Derry that morning, and that excited 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 365 

bombardment of electrons that seemed to emanate from him 
and to alter the nature of everyone who came into contact 
with him had worked an alteration in her. She might call 
it "adapting herself," but it was essentially more than that. 
For she had seen Jennie too, knew of their love, and had 
instantly re-assembled and re-marshalled all the forces at 
her disposal. Whatever might be her broadside of hat, arms 
and the rest, swiftly and craftily she had seen that there 
was one thing she could not ape the simplicity of seven- 
teen. Contest on that ground meant defeat in advance. In 
this, its vivid opposite, lay her desperate chance. 

And, I thought with apprehension, no negligible chance 
either ! For a man may be young and innocent and grave 
and be entirely at the mercy of this very simplicity and trust. 
It is the woman old enough to be his mother, but not too old 
to have this shot left in her locker, who bowls him over. 
Lucky for him if a more contemporaneous passion already 
occupies his heart. 



VI 

"So," she said, her eyes far away, "there are those won- 
derful pictures." 

Yes, she would not hesitate to make capital out of his 
pictures too. 

"The mere handling, quite apart from anything else " 

There again she had Jennie on the hip. Jennie might love 
his pictures merely because they were his, but Julia painted, 
knew the technicalities, would make intimacies, opportuni- 
ties, flattering occasions out of them 

"There's one, just a few bits of broken white ruins .with 
her lying there he wasn't going to show me that at 
first " 

But ah, her eyes had spied it out, and he had had to show 
it. 

"You've seen them, George. Now I ask you, could an/ 
boy of eighteen possibly have painted them?" 



3 66 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

That too she had the audacity to claim that he was 
eighteen when she wanted him to be eighteen and forty- 
five when she wanted him to be forty-five. Here again Jen- 
nie Aird was to be put in the wrong. It was to be an ana- 
chronism and monstrous that Jennie should love so widely 
out of her age. 

"Could he, I ask you ? Doesn't it show ? You were per- 
fectly right when you tried to stop that flirtation between 
those two, George, and you're absolutely wrong in wanting 
it to go on now. She's no right whatever, and neither has 
he. Leave it to me. He called me Miss Oliphant, but it 
can be Julia in five minutes, and anything else I like in 
ten " 

I did not choose to remind her again that she was leaving 
him out of the calculation. I had warned her once, and it 
comforted me to think that he was not quite so unarmed as 
she supposed against this sort of spiritual rape. . . . She 
went musingly on. 

'"Miss Oliphant!' ... But wait a bit. It was myself 
and Daphne Wade for it before, and then it was all senti- 
mental association and stained-glass and church-music and 
because he was wrapped in dreams. Sentiment's all very well 
in its way, George, but give me Get-up-and-get. That's the 
cock to fight. Daphne euchred me once " 

"Where did you get these expressions?" I asked her 
calmly. 

" and she didn't get him either. He never knew the 

first thing about women. So here we are, with the situation 
an exact repetition of what it was before." 

"With Jennie playing Daphne's part?" 

"For him. Why not? If he's the same again he's the 
same again, isn't he? But oh, when I saw him this morn- 
ing ! ... It was exciting and terrific ! You've looked at a 
photograph-album you haven't seen for years, I expect, but 
the things didn't move about and talk to you and ask you 
how you were and show you their pictures " 

I couldn't help a light shiver. Certainly this woman might 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 367 

claim that she had lived through an extraordinary cycle of 
experience. 

"So he's the same, and the same thing will happen all over 
again except for what / do," she added wickedly 

"And that will be?" 

She shook her head and pursed her mouth. 

"No, no. I won't marry you, George, but I will be your 
friend. I'm not going to tell you that. You must wait. I 
see how difficult your position is, and it will be much, much 
better if you're able to say afterwards that you didn't know 
anything at all about it." 

"Isn't it already a little late to say that?" 

"Well, least said's soonest mended anyway. Got an Of- 
ficers' Woodbine about you ?" 

"A what?" 

She laughed. "You must get used to us young things, 
George. An Officers' Woodbine's a Gasper, otherwise a 
Gold Flake, otherwise a Yellow Peril, and therefore any sort 
of a cigarette. He'll know what I mean, and he'll laugh. 
He went through the war, you see. Oh, I shall be able to 
make him laugh all right !" 

So she would reap a profit even out of the war. I could 
not deny her thoroughness. I gave her a cigarette, and as 
I held the match for her I saw that she made a note of my 
care for' the brim of her hat. She would pass that too on 
to Derry as part of his education that expensive hats must 
not have holes burned in them. 

There were fewer bathers on the diving-stage now but the 
beach was as crowded as ever. Julia noted hats, shoes, cos- 
tumes ; she noted men too, but no young figure in beret and 
vareuse appeared in the rainbow-coloured coming and going 
below. Then the hum of an aeroplane was heard, and 
"Look, that's rather amusing," she remarked as there broke 
out from the machine, twinkling against the blue, a tiny 
cirrus-cloudlet of white that slowly dissolved and was borne 
awa y leaflets for the races probably, or advertisements for 
something or other at the Casino. 



3 68 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

We ceased to talk. For all I know she was revolving 
projects that included a new free-wheel bicycle, fresh from 
its crate, with packing round its saddle and string and paper 
about its bright parts. Together we watched the fluttering 
of paper melt away. A minute later you could hardly have 
imagined that it had ever been there. There seemed no 
reason why it ever should have been there. There seemed 
so little reason for any of our activities. Not one of those 
leaflets had fallen over the land, and had they done so, what 
then? A litter of paper from an aeroplane, a little of petty 
acts from a person, and the immensity of the blue persisting 
exactly as before. For the humming of that plane had re- 
minded me of another humming. I remembered a Tower, 
with a horse-gin threshing at an adjacent farm. In that 
Tower too things had happened, so mighty-seeming at the 
time, so hushed in the empty cells of its stone heart now. 
I watched the plane out of sight. 

There seemed so little difference between a handful of 
leaflets scattered over the sea and a handful of grasses seed- 
ed on that circular coping, as long as the eternal Oblivion 
of the Blue brooded overhead. 

Late that night, in the garden of Ker Annie, there kissed 
me a young woman who had never kissed me before. She 
kissed me, and then with a sob fled past the dark auracaria 
into the house. The young woman was Jennie Aird. 

The next morning she had gone. 



PART IV 
THE DESERT ISLAND 



The Island Is deserted only in that none but they come 
there; for them, just those two, it blossoms as the rose. 
Its story is the oldest story of all, and the newest. It is told 
an infinitude of times, and yet, like that first story of the 
cycle of a thousand, we do not remember to have heard it 
before. Let us listen to it just once again. 

No coral-reef breaks its ceaselessly-thundering rollers into 
surf, no palms wave their dark fronds in the blue. Only a 
holiday-coast, with the London and South Western Com- 
pany's steamers passing daily, and the known and familiar 
trees of oak and ilex and lime. No garments of skins and 
necklaces of shells, but a white summer frock, a grey rain- 
coat over it, and a bundle that can be carried in the hand. 
No shelter of stones and branches that he who is with her 
toils to make with his own hands, but French slates, French 
tiles, French thatching, whichever it may be. 

And no wreck. Only the wreck of a home. 

Yet it is a Desert Island none the less ; a Desert Island 
with pleasure-steamers running, and cars full of tourists 
coming and going, and the Rate of Exchange quoted daily, 
and the sound of a familiar and friendly tongue every- 
where. A Desert Island with guide-books and time-tables, 
chars-a-bancs, the vedettes up the Ranee, the excursions to 
Mont St Michel. A Desert Island with cameras and pic- 
ture-postcards and greetings at every corner : "I didn't know 
you were over here! The So-and-Sos have just gone to 
Quimper. We're off to Concarneau on Tuesday. Where 
are you staying, and did you ever know anything like the 
price of golf-balls over here?" All over Haute Bretagne 
the same, all over Northern France the same; and some- 
where among it all a Desert Island d (four. Probably a 



372 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

moving one, on four bicycle- wheels. But where look for it? 
In Dol? Lamballe? Rennes? In what arrondissement, 
canton, commune ? There are many bicycles in France, but 
there is only one Island precisely like that one. For there 
is only one man who has been forty-five years of age and 
is now eighteen, only one woman who, embracing him, has 
made her fate commensurate with his own. They are apart, 
unapproachable, unidentified, not to be communicated with 
though you look into their faces and speak to them. Their 
nonentity is lost in the multitudinousness of everything else. 
They keep no signal-fires burning day and night for your 
ship or mine that passes. They are marooned in their own 
bliss, angelic castaways who will not return to us. 

Only to see her, only to hear her voice 

Only on a fatal day to tell her his name, the name of that 
prisoner in the Tower that may not be spoken 

Only to send back a bicycle to a shop (but to trust her to 
guess that where a bicycle would be left a letter would also 
be left, and an appointment made at some secret hour be- 
tween a the dansant and bedtime that night) . 

Only to cut the knot that no power on earth could untie r 
to fetch that free-wheel back from the shop under cover of 
the darkness, and to be off and miles away before the sum 
rose again. 

Was it well or ill that they had ever set eyes on one an- 
other? 

And what the better now is Alec Aird if he does find' 
them? The times have changed since Madge sat in her 
mother's carriage waiting until this servant, and not that 
one, opened the door. It is no good telling Madge he told 
her so. He can disown Jennie or he can take her back, but 
there is no middle way. The consul in the Rue St Philippe 
at St Malo cannot help him, and at the Maine at St Briac 
they will run through the files of the per mis de sefour in 
vain. He can whisper he has whispered in the ears of 
the police, and they may run the pair to earth, but it will 
not be to the earth of that magical island of theirs. And 
let Alec agonise in Agony Columns as much as he will. He 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 373 

can forgive her, or she can go unforgiven. All else is out 
of his hands. 

And yet it need be no long voyage to that Isle. It is to 
be found in the near and dear heart. But only by those 
who envy not and vaunt not, who suffer long and are kind. 
If sin there has been it must have been taken away again 
en souff ranee, en esperance, avant qu'il est venu le jour. 
But then, when that day comes, it conies as it were with a 
smile through the lashes of its opening eye. It looks up 
with the mounting rays, and its eyebrow becomes the arch 
of heaven. C'est efface, 1'horrible passe. II est venu le 
jour. 

n 

On a clear evening in the last days of August I found 
myself sitting in the Jardin des Anglais in Dinan, alone. 
The Airds were still at Ker Annie, Julia Oliphant still with 
them; but I, although their guest and under promise to re- 
turn to them, had absented myself for a few days. I had 
done this as much for their sake as for my own. Alec was 
out all day, or if not out hardly to be seen by the rest of us. 
Julia and Madge were better together without me. So I 
had made no falsely delicate excuse. I had told them ex- 
actly what I am saying at this moment. And I think they 
had been grateful. 

The garden looks east over the viaduct of Lanvallay, and 
above the misty violet that enshrouded the land a trail of 
pale shirley poppies was strung out over the sky the leagues 
of cloud-tops caught by the last of the sun. The parapet in 
front of me hid all else as I sat. One or two people stood 
against it, looking out over the abyss ; a few others moved 
slowly along the ramparts. The limes above me were al- 
ready benighted, the dark mass of St Sauveur hidden behind 
them. The crowded vedettes had long since departed, and 
the comparatively few visitors who stay in Dinan were prob- 
ably at the Cafe de Bretagne at the other side of the town. 

The dark tangle, that for the hundredth time I was trying 



374 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



to unravel, is almost impossible of statement, so little of the 
solid was there to support it, such mazes of spiritual con- 
jecture did it open up. Once more I will do the best I can 
with it. Understand, to begin with, that he had now repeat- 
ed what I had better call the "experience of the flash-lamp." 
Formerly it had been Julia; now it was Jennie. Therefore 
this, if anything, seemed to follow ; 



THAT OTHER TIME 
Julia . . . 

The approach of the lamp . . 
He had been greatly loved. 
He had not loved. 
He had remembered nothing. 



But he had woke up younger 
by eleven years. 



THIS TIME 
Jennie . . . 

The approach of the lamp . . . 
He was greatly loved. 
She was his very heart. 

I knew nothing whatever about 
it. 

I knew nothing whatever about 
it. 



Had ended in fluctuations of I knew nothing whatever about 

his "B" memory. it. 

But, save for that "flash-lamp" I knew nothing whatever about 

gap, his "A" memory had it- 
been unimpaired. 

He had therefore attained a I knew nothing whatever about 

duality of (approximately) it. 
eighteen and forty-five. 



But did he still retain it? 



It was precisely that that I 
wanted to know. 



In other words, the problem that had confronted me when 
he had disappeared from his rooms in Cambridge Circus, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 375 

when he had left Trenchard's rooms in South Kensington 
and had got to France by swimming the Channel, leaped 
upon me again on the ramparts of that ancient French town. 

How old was he now? 

But no, I have not finished yet. Let us take it a little 
further. The state of his memory at this point was a mat- 
ter of the most urgent importance, since I now began to sus- 
pect that the whole of his chance of again going forward 
turned on it. So we now had : 

Julia had taken his sin, but not His cry had been immediate- 
his memory of it, since he ly followed by an aching cry 
had cried out upon my cow- for help and advice, 
ardice in speaking of it at 
Le Port gap. 

He had subsequently repeated He had vowed that books had 
a page from his book. never in the least interested 

him. 

I had particularly questioned I had not had an opportunity 
him about his memory. of questioning him. 

He had promised to take no He had taken a step without 
step without my knowledge. my knowledge. 

I did not think that he would He had broken it. 
knowingly break his word to 
me. 

Do you see whither it leads? You do; but let me state 
it as it struck me, sitting there watching the shirley poppies 
in the east with St Sauveur dark among the limes behind me. 

When you or I forget a thing our forgetting does not 
mean that that thing never was. Would to God it some- 
times did! But you and I do not live backwards through 
our years, and we are dealing now with a man who did. 
Suppose, then, that this "A" memory were to go the way of 
his "B" one? And suppose in addition that, instead of 
merely resting on an even keel, he should presently begin 



376 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

to forge ahead again ? In that case he would once more be 
advancing on the unknown. His future to him would be 
what your future is to you, mine to me. And it is a condi- 
tion of a future's being a future that it shall not already 
have been. What other future than that is there? There 
was no man living, Derwent Rose or anybody else, who had 
not a future. And when a thing has not been it has not 
been, and there is the end of it. He was, quite simply, and 
exactly as you once were, exactly as I once was, young with 
a single age again. With the disappearance of his last "A" 
recollection, past time itself was abolished. For him forty- 
five was not, and never had been. 

And gone already was his memory of at least one event 
of hardly a week ago, namely, his promise to me. Nay, 
that must have gone before ever they fled, for nothing would 
have been easier for him than to send me a note demanding 
his release from his word. But gone how, and when ? Re- 
member, my own last actual sight of him had been by 
F rebel's Light when we had stood by the Crucifix that over- 
looks St Briac harbour. My last direct word from him 
had been that note that Jennie had brought, in which he had 
reassured me that he was to be trusted, at any rate till I 
was out and about again. And my last news of him of any 
kind prior to their flight was that he had sat with Jennie 
among the sarrasin sheaves. Therefore whatever had hap- 
pened had happened during the few days between his writ- 
ing his note and Noble's discovery of them and speeding to 
Ker Annie with the tale. 

I counted these days one by one. 

On Wednesday he had written his note. 

I had received it on Thursday. 

On the following Saturday Julia Oliphant had arrived. 

On the Tuesday after, the day of my first walk abroad, 
Noble had conspicuously failed to mind his own business, and 
we had all been set by the ears. 

So far so good. His "A" memory might have broken 
down on any of these days. 

And yet on the very next day he had greeted Miss OH- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 377 

phant by name! He had not only remembered her when 
she had presented herself at his hotel, but had remembered 
her in the rather curious sense that, whereas she had for- 
merly been "Julia" to him, she was now "Miss." 

What in the name of the falling night was one to make of 
it all? 

My hotel was the Poste, in the Place Duguesclin, and, 
though I remembered Dinan only imperfectly, it was for 
evenings such as this that I had come. It was a certainty 
that Derry and Jennie would never come to Dinan, where, 
when the tides served, half a dozen packet-boats a day might 
bring their loads of visitors from the very place from which 
they had fled. During the hours when the excursionists 
thronged the old town it was simple for me to get out into 
the surrounding country, to take an omelette at some inn or 
other, and to return to dinner. At other states of the tide 
the passage by river was impracticable, and few strangers 
were to be seen. 

The poppies went out of the sky almost suddenly. Over 
the parapet all was a soft violet vapour. But when I rose 
and turned slowly up the Place St Sauveur my thoughts 
still gave me their shadowy company. 

But one shadow was spared me. This was the fear with 
which I had mounted the stairs of his lodging at St Briac. 
Had he not been living, she at any rate would have been 
heard of at Ker Annie before this. It was for this that poor 
Alec telegraphed, advertised, instructed agents. Not that he 
must not have him as well as her. Though he showed him 
the door immediately afterwards, this Arnaud must marry 
Jennie first. 

And the chances of tracing him were now far different 
from those when I had fruitlessly sought him in London, 
only to have him put his hand on my shoulder in a Shaftes- 
bury Avenue picture-house in the end. For he had been a 
middle-aged man then, with all the bolt-holes of his succes- 
sive personal appearances to dodge fantastically in and out 
of. Then, a night, any night, might have made him unrec- 
ognisable, nameless, a ghost among living men. But be- 



378 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

tween eighteen and sixteen is no very great difference. He 
might be a little less tall, a little less broad, but somewhere 
between those two years he was cornered. His description 
was circulated, hers did not vary. They had been gone 
four days. Probably a week at the outside would see him 
touched on the shoulder in this place or that, a "Pardon, 
'M'sieu' " spoken in his ear, and back to Alec he would go. 

And though I have said as a foolish figure of speech that 
on that magical Island of theirs they were unapproachably 
alone, that was the important thing from Alec's point of 
view. 

There is a little cafe tucked away in an angle of the Rue 
de 1'Apport, called, if I remember rightly, the Cafe des 
Porches. If it is not called that it ought to be, for these 
Porches stride out over the pavement on their ancient legs 
of stone and wood as if to knock together the overhanging 
brows of their fantastic upper stories. Indeed one would 
say that the stalls and shops and barrows tunnelled beneath 
them had but a moment before been flush with those ancient 
fagades, and that at a call the whole house had suddenly ad- 
vanced a pace, and the next moment might advance another. 
And if you take a chest of drawers, and draw the bottom 
drawer out a little, and the one above a little more, and the 
one above that a little more still, and then set opposite to it 
another chest of drawers to which you have done the same, 
you will have the appearance of those carved and corbelled 
and enriched and decaying frontages. I passed under their 
trampling legs and sought my cafe. 

I don't remember ever actually entering that cafe in my 
life. I preferred either of the two tiny round pavement- 
tables that stood one on either side of its low doorway. 
There was just room to squeeze in between the two portable 
hedges of privet that stood in long wooden boxes on the 
kerb; and from this seat, unless they happened to be com- 
ing towards you under the Porches or going directly away, 
little more than a glimpse of passers-by could be had through 
the narrow opening. If they happened to pass on a bicycle 
it was the merest zoetrope-flicker and they were gone. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 379 

I sat down, called for coffee and a fine, and watched the 
shopkeepers opposite putting up their shutters for the night. 

One thing at any rate seemed now to be over and done 
with, and that was poor Julia Oliphant's desperate adventure. 
Poor woman, it was as much for her sake as theirs that I 
had left the Airds for a few days. Could she have done 
the same and have gone back to England it might have been 
as well, but that would have been to leave Madge insup- 
portably alone. A single day in that daughterless house 
had been enough for me. The next morning I had made 
my explanation, had promised to return, had made a few 
purchases, and had packed my bag. Any news was to be 
wired or telephoned to me at the Poste. That briefly-con- 
cluded arrangement had been practically the whole of my 
conversation with Madge. 

With Julia I had had even fewer words; for what was 
there to say ? Even to Madge one could hardly have com- 
mitted the grossness and superfluity of saying that one was 
sorry; what then of Julia? Was I sorry? For herself my 
heart bled ; but was I sorry for the miscarriage of her ve- 
hement and tremendous attempt? 

Yet how remember her as I had found her in the salon 
on the morning of the discovery, and be glad for Derwent 
Rose and his irregular bridal? She had worn a hat and 
frock of white pique, but the pique had not been whiter than 
her face nor the auracaria darker than her sombre lashes 
and ringed eyes. 

"You've heard?" she had said. 

"Alec's just told me." 

"Of course " The unuttered words were "with him. 

"It looks terribly like it." 

"Had you any idea ?" This with a look so imperious that 
I was thankful to be able to reply truthfully. 

"None. Is there anything any little thing we may 

do?" 

"Settle that with Alec. I must be with her." 
And that had been about all. I had not dared to ask her 

whether there was anything I could do for herself. 



380 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

But if not because she had failed, at least because of this 
all-at-once dropping of the bottom out of everything for 
which she had lived, one heart in Dinan resumed its ache 
for her that night. Stratagems learned of any man, though 
she broke his heart with a laugh in the learning and then 
to have her own broken ! Arms to provoke the world and 
no world to be provoked now that he, her world, had failed 
her ! Nothing had been too little for her, nothing too great. 
Officers' Woodbines and her adoration of his painting, his 
years of war and a hat that hid one eye! What were those 
arms and shoulders of hers but his own gesture, ready to 
be given back to him, when he had shown himself in my 
swimming-pond, in that studio in Cremorne Road? How 
she had dreamed to glory in herself; what glories, for all 
I knew, had she not planned for the very next day ! And 
all, all to have gone in the seeming security of that very 
moment when she had thought her rival out of the way! 
"New bicycles for old," she had planned, a new free-wheel 
with packing about its saddle and string and paper round 
its polished parts; but not a wheel would any bicycle ever 
turn now to help her. The last she had seen of this man 
whose destiny she had so arrogantly made her own was 
when he had shown her a picture a picture of her young 
victress, lying among white masonry as ruined as Julia Oli- 
phant's hope. 

And even that she had had to ask to see. 

The greengrocer under the Porche to the left was putting 
up his last shutter, the seller of hardware and Breton pot- 
tery across the way had already done so. Elsewhere from 
under the houses' bellies dim gleams of light showed as if 
through horn. In the upper stories window shone into win- 
dow across the street half Dinan is in bed by half-past 
nine. A priest in soutane and pancake hat hurried past, 
glancing into my retreat as he did so. Presently there was 
little light except that that streamed from the doorway be- 
hind me, yellowing the artificial hedge and showing the ele- 
phantine feet opposite still where they were. Even this 
light was darkened as a couple of convives, with a "Bonsoir, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 381 

Madame," blocked the doorway for a moment, gave me also 
a muttered "Bonsoir," and mingled with the shadows down 
the street. I watched them disappear. 

But before they were quite lost among the trampling 
Porches there cut across my opening, quick as a zoetrope- 
flicker, and with the single little "ting" of an ill-adjusted 
bell, a bicycle. 

My eyes function quite normally; but they are not an 
instantaneous camera. In the tenth part of a second I had 
turned my head to the right inside my little screen of privet. 
Alas! Round tubs, with more privet, blocked either end. 
I sprang up, but the round table was in my way. I extri- 
cated myself just one moment too late. I stood looking 
down the dark Rue de la Cordonnerie. 

But she had vanished. 

She not he ; for even in that momentary flash there had 
been no mistaking that uncovered red-gold head. But noth- 
ing else had been familiar. A black shawl had enwrapped 
her shoulders, a green plaid skirt had made an irregular 
rhomboid from the saddle downwards. Her stockings were 
black, and white canvas shoes with jute soles covered her 
feet. On the handle-bar had swung a basket, with parcels 
in it and a baton of bread sticking out. 

They were in Dinan after all. 



Ill 

In Dinan after all, and risking the visitors who arrived 
by the boat! 

One moment though. There had been provisions in that 
basket on the handle-bar. If I myself could clear off during 
the busy hours of the day and take my omelette at a quiet 
roadside inn, what was there to prevent their doing the 
same? She had been "buying in." Possibly she was now 
cutting sandwiches for the morrow's consumption, 
like myself, they would return at night, in the hour when 
the shutters were being put up, the Porches played heaven 



382 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

knew what gambols in the darkness, and even the lights of 
the Bretagne were extinguished, the awnings rolled up and 
the chairs and tables carried inside. 

Or for that matter, they might be in Dinan for the night 
only, and off on their bicycles in the morning. 

Yet somehow there had been a settled look about that 
figure that had passed the opening of the privet and been 
gone all in a moment. People who stay only one night in a 
place usually have their buying-in done for them. And if 
he was in vareuse and corduroys, her own dress had been 
indistinguishable from that of almost any shop-assistant or 
ouvreuse one might meet in the town. In vain had Alec and 
Madge gone through her wardrobe to see what garments 
were missing. That part of his description was useless. 
Only Madame Arnaud's face was Jennie Aird's. 

I did not sit down again. I called inside the cafe, paid 
what I owed, and walked slowly in the direction the bicycle 
had taken. There was now, unfortunately, no hurry, and 
I considered this direction carefully. Two streets led to 
the right, but one of these might be eliminated, since in order 
to take it she would have had to skirt the shadow of the 
Porches, which she could hardly have done without my see- 
ing her. Remained the Rue de la Cordonnerie. This is a 
narrower slit even than that made by the Porches. The sign 
of a dingy little restaurant, dimly seen by the light of a lan- 
tern high up in the middle of the street, alone seemed to 
keep the two sides from bumping together. One makes one's 
way as best one can between two gutters, none too pleasant 
to the nostrils, and to right and left the low-windowed shops 
and eating-houses seem to have settled a yard into the earth. 

Then, half way down this alley, bicycles caught my eye. 
The murky light from a half-open door on the right snowed 
the gleam of a couple of mudguards. I stepped over the 
gutter. 

The next moment I had cursed myself for a fool. The 
officers from the two great barracks of Duguesclin and Bau- 
manoir dine at the Poste or at the Bretagne, but there is not 
a cabaret or eating-house in the town that is not nightly vis- 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 383 

ited by the N.C.O.'s and men. To see half a dozen bicycles 
stacked outside a doorway was the commonest of sights. 
There were four or five of them here now. 

Nevertheless I peeped through the half-open door. I saw 
a low smoky kitchen interior, one half of it like any other 
kitchen, but the farther end entirely occupied by a dresser 
crowded with bottles of all shapes and sizes and colours. 
A fat little woman in a blue-checked apron and lace cap was 
ironing; the rest of the table was a litter of kepis, bottles 
and glasses. Through drifting cigarette-smoke men's bare 
heads showed, the red breeches of dragoons, the black 
breeches of infantry, and a couple of young fellows in hori- 
zon-blue, one with a steel cap on his head. No woman's 
bicycle was likely to be found among those heavy Service 
machines. I turned away. 

So she had slipped me for the moment. But she was in 
Dinan. What to do now ? 

Wire immediately to Alec, I supposed. 

But as I crossed the Place Duguesclin I had a better idea. 
It was the lights of the Poste showing under the dark limes 
that put it into my head. Charlotte might be able to help 
me. Charlotte was the little Italian-looking toulonnaise who 
served the cafes and fines outside the hotel and never failed 
to ask me how I had slept when she brought my coffee and 
roll in the morning. My French, I ought to say, though 
serviceable enough, is not of the same pure fount as was 
Derry's, and Charlotte even more than the other ladies of 
the hotel took the most charming and hospitable pains in 
talking with me. And I have always found that, whether 
in another tongue or in your own, a great deal of your ease 
depends on who you are talking to. What I mean is that 
Charlotte and I were friends. 

I walked into the large public room where Madame at her 
desk was casting up her day's accounts. The chairs were 
being piled on the marble-topped tables, and through the 
maze of their legs I saw that Charlotte had not yet gone. 
That was my idea. I knew that Charlotte lived, not in the 
hotel, but somewhere in the town, coming and going daily. 



384 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

I approached her. I will give our low and brief conversa- 
tion in English. 

"Have you remarked in the town, Charlotte, a young 
woman of such-and-such a manner of dress and such-and- 
such a face and hair, especially the hair, who buys her bread 
and groceries a little late at night and possibly on a bicycle ?" 

"The shops are closed when one leaves this hotel, M'sieu'," 
sighed Charlotte. 

"But you inhabit the town. I will re-describe." I did 
so. "If it were possible to furnish me with renseigne- 
ments " 

"Hold, M'sieu'. This lady is French?" 

"Only exteriorly. Without doubt she speaks French, but 
as I do myself, like a Spanish cow." 

"Non, non, M'sieu'," Charlotte politely protested. "But 
wait. She is alone ?" 

"She is with her French husband, the most beautiful 
young man even among the beautiful young men of France." 
(I was glad Alec was not there to hear me.) 

Charlotte gave an exclamation. "Then it is they !" 

"Ah! And they live ?" 

"I do not know, 'M'sieu'. But Dinan is not very large." 

"Neither is this very large, Charlotte, but it may aggran- 
dise itself " 

And there passed between us certain pieces of postage- 
stamp-edging that united the filthy remnants of what had 
once been the notes of a Chamber of Commerce. I sought 
my candle and ascended to my room. 

In Dinan ! Well, it was quite like him to have cunningly 
read our minds, anticipated our conclusions, and decided that 
Dinan was perhaps not so unsafe after all. And his mas- 
tery of French would enable him to remain obscure. 

Yet one or two little things puzzled me. Jennie's French, 
for example, was not remarkable ; why then should he, able 
to bargain like a native to the last cabbage-leaf, have risked 
discovery by sending her shopping instead of going himself? 
Was another change coming? Had it come? Though it 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 385 

could not now be externally a great one, was he none the 
less nervous about it? ... But it was no good guessing. 
If Charlotte had any luck at all I should know in the morn- 
ing. In the meantime bed was no bad place. 

My room looked on the inner courtyard of the hotel. I 
was asleep before the lights of the staircases and windows 
opposite had ceased to flicker over my ceiling and the ward- 
robe-mirror at my bed's foot. 

I awoke to the sound of Dinan's bells. At first I could 
not remember what it was of importance that I had on my 
mind. Then the mists of sleep cleared away and it all 
came brightly back. I dressed hurriedly and descended. 
Almost immediately Charlotte came to my table with my 
coffe and my news. 

And I had been right after all. They were at that house 
sunk a yard into the earth in the Rue de la Cordonnerie 
where the soldiers' bicycles had stood. 

"And the name of the proprietor of the house ?" 

"Cest Madame Carguet, M'sieu'." 

"Merci, Charlotte. You will buy yourself a hat for Sun- 
days, but the best in Dinan, it is understood " 

A quarter past nine found me at that low doorway into 
which I had peeped the evening before. Madame stood at 
the table, washing lettuce in a crock. I tapped and entered. 

"Madame Carguet?" 

"It is I, M'sieuV 

"I am a friend of the lady and gentleman who are stay- 
ing with you. May I see them ?" 

She had kind, vivacious and shrewd little eyes, which 
seemed to measure me for a moment. 

"And the name of M'sieu' who asks?" 

I thought it possible that he might have left instructions 
about anybody who might ask for him. In any case there 
was nothing for it but to be open and above-board. I told 
her my name, corroborating my statement with my card. 
She wiped her wet hands on her apron and took the card by 
the extreme tip. 



386 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

"Merci, M'sieu'. But actually it is that they have gone 
painting, taking with them the provisions for the day, as 
every day." 

"They will be back ?" 

"This evening. Oh, assuredly, M'sieu'." 

Then, whether my manner or my card reassured her, or 
however it was, her face lighted up and she broke into a 
flood of ecstatic French of which I understood perhaps one 
word in three. 

"But it is just as I said to my husband, M'sieu' the fairy- 
tale of Cendrillon, just! 'Vieux sot, but where are your 
eyes?' I said. 'Regard how she holds the fer-a-repasser to 
her cheek ; did she ever before iron a chemise or a coiff e in 
her life ? Look at her hands which hold the needle. It 
is not like you and me, ce couple-ci ; it is of a different order. 
You will see arrive the coach presently justement Cen- 
drillon!' Ah, the beautiful pair! And he, so young, to 
have fought through this terrible war! Mais oui, M'sieu', 
c'est vrai but necessarily M'sieu' knows better than I who 
tell him. At first one would not believe. The poilus here, 
they would not believe. Who would believe? But mon 
Dieu, it is true! Our Caporal Robert, he was at the very 
places. It is correct absolutely the regiments, the divisions, 
the commandants, the tranchees, the boyaux, the dates 
Caporal Robert can verify all, for he too, he, was in contact 
with the English armies ! To hear them talk of an evening, 
M'sieu', yes, in this very room, while Madame sews or as- 
sists me with the ironing or no matter what " 

"But they have only been here how many days ?" 

"Four days, M'sieu' but we love them. Ah, the differ- 
ence when such as they drop from the skies ! It beautifies 
our life. C'est une f uite, sans doute, M'sieu' ?" 

"A little; but all will be accommodated." 

"You are a parent, M'sieu' ?" 

"I am a friend of the parents. I am un peu ambassa- 
dor." 

"And they will return and be pardoned?" 

"It is what I seek to arrange." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 387 

She had placed a chair for me. She herself sat with her 
back to the table on the bench that had been occupied by the 
red-breeched dragoons the night before I glanced round the 
room. Behind the open door the inner tube of a bicycle 
hung on a nail in the wall, and a bicycle-pump and an oilcan 
stood on a little shelf above it. Beneath the shelf was an 
empty space, more than sufficient for a bicycle. I saw now 
how I had missed her. She had wheeled her bicycle straight 
in and had put it behind the door, had crossed the kitchen 
to a closed door on my right, and had gone to her room 
gone to where he waited for her, for he had certainly not 
been among the soldiers when I had peeped in. 

"You say that M'sieu' talks to the clients of an evening, 
Madame. Did he do so last night?" 

"Last night, no, M'sieu'. One missed him. But talk to 
them, he! For three nights he has talked and laughed all 
the evening while she has assisted me. Talk and laugh? 
C'est a dire ! To hear him sing to the copains 'En France 
y a qu' des Frangais' la figure, les gestes c'est a tordre!" 

And sitting there she sought to give me the impression, 
singing his song in a cracked voice: 

"A part les Anglais, Americains, 
Espagnols, Anamit's, Italiens, 
Les Russes, Les Hollandais et les p'tits Japonais 
En France y a qu' des Franqais ! 

Ah, but he is an original, he!" 
"But why then was he not of the clientele last night? I 

asked. 

"I do not know, M'sieu'. Perhaps he was a little souf- 
frant. It was Madame who made les emplettes last night; 
ordinarily it is he, and oh, M'sieu', M'sieu', pour les oc- 
casions! . . . She took her bicycle which reposes behind the 
door there, and was gone scarcely a little half -hour, and then 
she replaced the bicycle and mounted straight to him in the 
room that is above." 

"Did you see them go out this morning? ' 

"No, M'sieu'." 



388 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

("Then, chere Madame," I thought to myself, "do not be 
surprised if you do not see them return this evening.") 

For this was newly disturbing. Apparently for three 
nights he had made the purchases, as I had anticipated he 
would ; then on the fourth night he had sent her. For three 
nights he had sat in that half -underground room, laughing 
and talking with the evening customers ; then on the fourth 
he had buried himself upstairs. I looked round the kitchen 
again. I tried to see the picture the incredulous poilus, 
questioning, cross-questioning, demanding who was on his 
regiment's right, who on its left, what division was in sup- 
port, under whose command. Quite possibly Caporal Robert 
had been had in specially to check his accuracy. What a 
stroke of luck for him that he had actually served at a point 
of contact between the British line and the French! And 
here in this room he had sat, pulling their legs, as he had 
pulled mine in the Boulevard Feart, Alec Aird's at Ker 
Annie. The cool impudence of his song! "Only French- 
men in France !" How he had laughed in his sleeve ! Well 
might Madame Carguet shake her head and say that he was 
impayable, he! 

But it (you know what I mean by "it") happened in the 
night; and what was the appalling position now that his 
nights were shared with another ? Her too I tried to picture 
again in that lamplighted kitchen, clumsily sewing, burning 
herself with the iron, with the poilus, grave and respectful, 
but making the very utmost of their moustaches and stealing 
covert glances at her as her head was down hung over the 
ironing-board. "Une fuite" obviously an elopement. Any- 
one could see that with half an eye. But to what had she 
fled ? To yet another of his transformations ? Slight though 
any transformation must now be, she knew every line of his 
beautiful face, and what must be her consternation, what her 
alarm, did but a single line alter, though it became more 
beautiful still ? 

And unless they returned to the Rue de la Cordonnerie 
to-night (which I now entirely doubted), what was the good 
of telegraphing to Alec ? 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 389 

"You say he is painting, as every day/ 1 I said. "Has he 
any pictures in the house at this moment?" 

"Twenty or more, M'sieu'." 

"They are in his room without doubt ?" 

"Oui, M'sieu'. At this moment even. After his depar- 
ture this morning I did his room with my own hands." 

"He sells his pictures?" 

She gave a shrug. "That I cannot say. He sketches the 
clients, but those he gives away. Caporal Robert he drew 
as one should say himself, le Caporal, breathing upon the pa- 
per. Evidemment he has exposed at the Galleries. Are his 
pictures of great value, M'sieu' ?" 

"I am unable to say, Madame." 

("But," I thought, "as it is a wager that those pictures up- 
stairs and that bicycle-pump behind the door will be his pay- 
ment for his lodging, it is to be hoped they are.") 

I rose. 

"Thank you, Madame. As to my visit to you, you will 
see that there is a discretion to be observed. I shall return 
this evening at nine o'clock. In the meantime it would give 
me great pleasure if you would share a vermouth sec with 
me." 

But she was on her feet instantly. "Non non non non! 
It is I who should have remembered! We are going to 
drink to those two angels, but yes, at the expense of the 
house, I implore! Et quand la Carosse de Cendrillon ar- 
rivera a la porte . . . non non, M'sieu', it is the house that 
pays ... ah, but what insistence! . . . Well, well, as 
M'sieu' wishes- 
She busied herself among her bottles, humming to herself 

as she did so the words of his song: " et les p'tits Japo- 

nais, En France y a qu' des Frangais !" 

I will not linger over the details of that day. I wandered 
aimlessly hither and thither, out through St Louis' ancient 
gate, under the grey walls of the Petits Fosses, back and 
forth in the shade of the tall elms, stupid with too much 
thinking. I could only repeat over and over to myself, 
"Another lapse, another lapse ! That was why he kept to 



390 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

his room last night. His landlady didn't see him go out 
this morning; she won't see him come back to-night. It's 
happened again, and he's off somewhere else. And she's 
with him. Poor child, poor, poor child !" 

I lunched at the Poste, and in the afternoon walked again. 
But the brilliance of the summer's day was lost on me. I 
thought that after all I would go back to England. What 
was done was done, what was to come would come. The 
sightseers who wandered up and down under the Porches or 
gaped in groups in the Place St Sauveur seemed unreal to 
me; the shadow of what had probably again happened was 
my reality. Poor, poor child ! She, our lovely Jennie Aird, 
to alight on a broken wing in that dingy kitchen, to sit among 
poilus, to listen to his mocking song! And he, with that 
shadow darkening over both of them, could actually find it 
in his heart to sing. . . . 

The visitors descended the Lainerie to the vedettes again ; 
the Porches watched them go; and once more I had the 
Place St Sauveur to myself. 

Mechanically I entered the church. I closed the leather 
door softly behind me as I became aware of a small group 
a little way up the aisle. I slipped into the nearest pew, half 
concealed behind a pillar. Apparently a christening was to- 
ward, for a stout little Frenchman with a waxed moustache 
held a babe in his arms. He tickled the infant's chin and 
allowed it to clutch his finger, chatting and laughing softly 
as they waited for the priest. The priest appeared, followed 
by three or four acolytes carrying candles; he also laughed 
and joked and chatted quietly, while the cerise-coped urchins, 
their candles at all angles, shifted their feet, leaned against 
the font, and looked negligently round. There was an al- 
most jocular intimacy about it all, until the priest, in a secret, 
attentive and distinct voice that nevertheless filled the aisle, 
began the Sacrament. . . . And I caught myself foolishly 
wondering whether that babe too would grow up, have some- 
thing inexplicable happen to it, and set out on the return 
journey to the cradle again. If to one, why not to another? 
Why not to all the world? What was there to prevent one 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 391 

of those inattentive acolytes having by and by the part of a 
George Coverham to play? Why should not that mite of 
four holding her mother's hand turn out to be a Julia Oli- 
phant? Or those other wide-eyed tots be some future 
Madge and Alec Aird? . . . But it occurred to me that 
these thoughts would not do. All at once I rose and stole 
silently out. Even in a church there seemed to be no com- 
fort for me. This time I took a long walk, I hardly remem- 
ber where, and did not return till it was time for dinner. 

I had very little hope of seeing the runaways, but I might 
as well keep my appointment as not. At a little before nine, 
therefore, I turned into the Rue de la Cordonnerie. As I 
did so my heart gave a leap to notice that the window over 
the low doorway of the inn was lighted up. 

With my eyes on the light I moved to the other side of 
the street. Carved wooden corbals supported the overhang- 
ing bay, but the window itself was modern. The light was 
apparently placed low down, on a chair or on the floor, for 
half over the sagging ceiling I could see the enormous soft 
shadow of somebody's head. The shadow moved, and the 
somebody approached the window. 

Then I saw the glint of her hair. 

I entered the brasserie, bowed to Madame among her 
troopers, and looked inquiringly towards the inner door. 
She had a candle ready. She lighted it, opened the door, 
put the candle into my hand and one finger on her lips, 
pointed up a staircase no wider than if two interior walls 
had cracked slightly apart, and withdrew. I ascended. 

Then, before I reached the landing, I heard his clear voice. 

"I say, darling, what does 'belier' mean?" 



IV 

The door was a couple of inches ajar. The clear voice 
continued. Apparently he was reading aloud. 

" 'La etait une tour dite Le Poulailler' (poulaille's poul- 
try) < qu i renfermait Le Chat, machine de guerre' (where 



392 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

the Chat, a machine of war, was kept) 'sorte de belier a 
griffes pour les sieges' something with claws for sieges 
now what on earth is 'belier' ? Seems to have been some sort 
of a battering-ram. . . . There, how stupid of me! Why, 
I've just said the very word ! 'Ram/ of course. They kept 
the battering-ram there. . . . 'On peut visiter dans une mai- 
son voisine le passage en casemate de la courtine' sort of 
fortified wall, I expect 'et aussi dans les caves de I'Hotel 
de la Poste' and also in the cellars of the Hotel de la 
Poste " 

Thereupon I pushed and entered. 

He was sitting on a long, low chest, the sort of thing corn 
or flour would be kept in, with the single candle by his side. 
In his hand was the paper-covered guide-book from which 
he was laboriously reading. The little table at which she 
stood was pushed up against the wall just beyond him; she 
was preparing their supper. A long roll was tucked under 
her left arm, and she spread the butter from a little casserole. 
A paper of sausage was before her, with two of Madame's 
glasses and a bottle of milk. In the corner by the window 
stood a bed with a draped canopy and a crimson coverlet 
that resembled a souffle. Had you put a marble down on 
that ancient floor heaven knows where it would have come to 
rest, for the whole room was warped and distorted, as if 
indeed it had just retired panting from its struggle with the 
house across the street. Under the window his canvases 
were stacked. Near the bed's head hung a single devotional 
picture, a Virgin and Child in blue and white and gilt. The 
bed had to be where it was because of the window on the 
other side of the way. 

Then, before I could make my presence known, he flung 
the guide-book across the room, sprang to his feet, opened 
his arms wide, ran towards her, and clasped her rapturously 
to him. 

"Oh, darling, darling! Isn't it simply ripping ripping!" 

I have never heard such a cry of pure happiness from hu- 
man throat. He made no attempt to kiss her ; some far, far 
deeper joy seemed to possess them. I had the most vivid 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 393 

impression that this was not the first nor the second nor the 
tenth time that day they had clasped like that. He was 
laughing down at her, she laughing softly back. She was 
fresh and fair as a jonquil yes, jonquil-hued even to her 
little gilding of freckles, as if the flower's heart had burst 
with a happiness like their own, and spread its golden dust 
around. And they seemed to adore, not so much one an- 
other, as some wondrous secret that existed between them. 

Then suddenly I saw her stiffen. She had seen me, and 
he had seen the look in her eyes. Both heads turned swiftly, 
and they severed. I did not move. 

Then slowly my eyes moved from her face to his. 

Not a trace of change could I distinguish. He was young, 
not too young, grave, and filled with some exaltation that 
did not quite leave him as our eyes looked into one another's. 

"I must beg your pardon," I muttered. 

He advanced towards me. "Why Sir George!" 

Then swiftly he glanced at her, she as swiftly at him. 

The next moment her cheek was against my breast. 

"Are they here ?" she murmured in a failing voice. 

I did not pretend not to understand. "No, Jennie, I'm 
here alone." 

"How did you know we were here?" 

"I'm staying in Dinan for a few days. I saw you last 
night." 

She lifted her head. Again their eyes sought one an- 
other's. There was something they were aching to com- 
municate. 

The room had two chairs, one a church chair with a rush 
bottom, the other a straight-backed piece of carved Breton 
work, but so old that its colour had become a dry dusty grey. 
He placed this chair for me, and sat down again on the corn- 
bin. He was softly kneading his brown hands, as I had 
formerly seen him do in Cambridge Circus. It is odd how 
these tricks cling to one. 

Then, his face again transfigured with that undivulged joy 
they shared, he looked up at me. Jennie was back^ at her 
buttering again; apparently he was to do the telling. I 



394 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

noticed that at any rate he had not forgotten to buy her a 
ring. He caught my glance at it, and nodded joyously. 

"That's it," he said. 

Once before he had asked me to talk French to him. I 
now had a reason for speaking it unasked. 

"Qu'est-ce que veut dire " I said. 

He laughed aloud. 

"That's all right you can talk English! Can't he talk 
English, Jennie?" 

Jennie nodded. 

"Suppose you talk it," I said. 

"Rather! I'm going to tell him, Jennie. . . . English? 
Why, that's the whole thing! Yesterday morning when I 
woke up" he glanced towards the bed by the window "I 
hardly dared to believe it ! They were talking down in the 
street or somewhere, and all at once I wondered what I 
mean is that I couldn't quite catch it. It all seemed so quick 
and difficult, just a lot of jabbering. Not a bit like we 
learned it : 'Je veux une plume, de 1'encre et du papier' you 
know. So I lay there thinking, looking up at the ceiling. 
Then I had an idea. I got quietly out of bed and went to the 
door there." He nodded in the direction of the door now. 
"I opened the door and called down to Madame. I've done 
that every morning for cafe-au-lait, you see. Now here's the 
point." 

He emphasised the point with a forefinger. 

"There's a Breton word for cafe-au-lait. Don't ask me 
what it is ; I don't ever want to hear it again. Anyway, I'd 
used that word for three mornings, and that morning I 
couldn't remember it for the life of me. I thought perhaps 
if I just went to the door and called without stopping to 
think it might come of itself, but not it! I had to ask for 
cafe-au-lait, and of course up it came all right. . . . 

"Well, I didn't say a word to Jennie. We got up and 
went out sketching. But forgetting that word, and all the 
French I heard sounding so awfully funny and foreign, 
was on my mind all the time. And the next thing was that 
I forgot the word for willow I happened to be sketching 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 395 

some willows. Couldn't think of the French for willow. 
And all day it was the same. Some people came and looked 
over my shoulder while I was painting, but all I could make 
out was the word 'Salon,' and, of course, that's just as much 
English as French. 

"Then I started talking bits of French to Jennie, and she 
got a bit cross didn't you, sweetheart ? She thought I was 
pulling her leg about her own French. And so it went on 
all day, and me getting more and more excited about it. 
Then at night I told Jennie all about it. I told her she'd 
have to go out and do the shopping, because I simply daren't 
I'd had little jokes with the shop people, you see, and I 
thought to myself, 'By Jove, if they joke back now I shan't 
have a word to say!' You see what I'm getting at, don't 
you?" 

Dismay filled my heart. So this was the magnificent news 
that had thrown them so ecstatically into one another's arms ! 
This was what had happened in the night this time! He, 
who the evening before had sung to the poilus downstairs, 
had had to send her to do their shopping! Little enough to 
rejoice over, I thought. But he went on. 

"Then to-night, just before you came in, it happened 
again. Some French word or other, quite a simple one I 
just couldn't remember the English for it. It was hardly a 
moment before you came in. I tell you.it's all going away 
from me by leaps and bounds. Even when I know the words 
my tongue won't pronounce them properly. And then you 
came in. You see what it means, don't you?" 

"What does it mean?" I managed to ask. It seemed to 
me to mean only one thing the beginning of the end. 

"What does it mean?" he exulted. "Why, it means that 
I'm simply we just myself and none of this beastly Arnaud 
business a fresh start it means." 

I glanced at Jennie. "I wonder whether you d mind get- 
ting another glass and letting me share your milk," I said. ^ 

Then when the door had closed behind her, 
simply the old thing over again, Derry. You've talked about 
fresh starts before." 



396 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

He laughed. "Is that all you sent her out for? She 
knows all about it. Of course I really started some time ago. 
I think I told you so. All I'm telling you this for now is 
because it absolutely clinches it !" 

"How does forgetting clinch anything?" 

"Because it is forgetting !" he cried triumphantly, echoing 
and confirming my own abstruse meditation as I had watched 
the shirley poppies over the ramparts. "I say, I mustn't 
shout, though. I'm not supposed to know any English ex- 
cept the few Words Jennie's taught me. Great jokes we've 
had about that ! So doesn't this prove it ? Why, what am I 
doing remembering things all that time ago? I'm not per- 
fectly right till I've forgotten every single thing! And I'm 
forgetting without trying; you can't try to forget. Heaps 
of things have gone besides French heaps of English things. 
Why, I've forgotten " 

"You remember me?" 

"Yes. I met you at the Airds. I told you the whole 
story out at Le Port one night. You can't have forgotten !" 

"Hadn't we met before then?" 

"Yes, I think we had. There was a pond, wasn't there? 
Wasn't it at some house with a pond ?" 

"Do you remember a Miss Oliphant ?" 

"Oliphant? Yes wait a bit yes I do. I'd met her 
somewhere or other too. But the last time I saw her was 
when she came for a bicycle. Why they should have sent 
her I don't know, but of course I knew there was a storm 
blowing up, so I simply gave her the bicycle and showed her 
a few sketches, and let it go at that." 

"You don't remember where you'd met her before, do 
you?" 

"I know it was in England somewhere. But I didn't 
know you knew her till Jennie told me." 

"You really didn't know I knew Miss Oliphant ?" 

"Honestly I didn't, Sir George." 

I was silent as Jennie reappeared. 

And yet, if she knew all, as he said, why the caution of 
silence? It seemed to me that with the clearing up of one 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 397 

other point I should have an idea of how matters really 
stood. I turned to Jennie. 

"Berry's still talking about the great news," I said. "He 
says you know all about it. Well, I want you to tell me one 
thing. Does he remember everything that's happened since 
he first saw you ?" 

Derry answered for her, with a soft laugh. "Do I remem- 
ber that ! Why, it's all I'm going to know presently !" 

"Has your 'B' memory quite gone?" 

"Quite, so far as I can say." 

"And your 'A' is going, and you're starting a brand-new 
one from the moment you met Jennie ?" 

"Not 'met/ 'Saw.' That's it exactly. Couldn't have 
been better put." 

"And" I hesitated, but took my fence "that's all? 
Nothing else has gone?" 

"What do you mean, Sir George ? Only the remembered 
things are going. I'm the same, if that's what you mean." 

"The same that you always were?" 

"Well" he made a simple gesture with his open hands 
"if I don't remember what I was I can't very well tell that, 
can I?" 

"You still do a little, but it's going, and soon you won't at 
all?" 

"Exactly. Now do you see what I mean ?" 

It was impossible to believe that even unconsciously he 
was lying. I remembered his own trouble and unbelief 
when it had first occurred to him that this astounding de- 
velopment might lie ahead. Wistfully he had put it aside as 
too dazzling to be entertained. "I suppose that's too much 
to expect," he had sighed as he had put it from him. But 
now, unless he was lying to me, to Jennie, and to himself, he 
certainly seemed to have the proof of it. His face had been 
puzzled candour itself when I had put my sudden questions: 
Had he and I met before, and did he know a Miss Oliphant? 
Vaguely he remembered a pond, vaguely a Miss Oliphant in 
England; and to-morrow he was not going to remember 
either. My hazardous surmise as I had watched the shirley 



398 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

poppies was justified, my fears for the breaking-up of his 
faculties groundless. This was not the break-up, but the 
very confirmation of those faculties, the complete washing- 
out of everything not inherent in himself. What next hap- 
pened in the night would be what happens to every one of 
us every night the gentle and beautiful small forward step 
to age. He was all but at the maximum of his unassisted, 
unhindered power, a white page on which to write anew. 

And what a lovely manuscript might it not now be made ! 
His schooling, the rudiments he had formerly acquired up 
to the age of sixteen, he would probably retain ; but there- 
after his life dated from a certain moment when, by the 
upcast glow of the headlights of a French car, he had seen 
Jennie Aird's eyes looking into his. He even spoke as if 
his talk with me that night by Le Port gap had been the be- 
ginning of his confidence in me. Not a suspicion did he 
seem to have that he had made similar confidences before, 
in his rooms in Cambridge Circus, in that loft over a South 
Kensington mews. That meeting of eyes across the car 
that swift "Who was that with you in the garden, George ?" 
his wily shepherding of me into the Dinard Bazaar his 
surreptitious meetings with her, and his last crowning es- 
capade these made up the whole history of his re-created 
life. Within this perfect period he had forgotten nothing 
... but yes, he had forgotten one thing. This was his 
promise to me. And very likely he had not forgotten that at 
all. The chances were that he had knowingly and delib- 
erately broken his word. And what of it? Who was I to 
have extorted it from him? Could I reproach him with 
that now? Is the law so hard? Shall we add to the 
tortures of Tantalus the unbinding of his hands, and forbid 
him to seize the fruit he thirsts for? Let him cut the knot 
and take his joy! At the worst he had merely omitted to 
send me a note releasing himself. And should I speak of 
that now ? 

So, if he was eighteen, seventeen, sixteen, he was simply 
eighteen or seventeen or sixteen. What, by that fact, mat- 
tered his birth-certificate? If he was not the age he was, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 399 

what age was he? How old are you? how old am I? 
We are as old as our knowledge of ourselves. Had his 
faculties been impaired ah, that would have been an- 
other matter. But out of that ancient mould of his former 
history a new sprout had pushed, sweet, vigorous, and iden- 
tical with itself. That shoot was Derwent Rose. If it was 
not Derwent Rose where then was Derwent Rose ? No Der- 
went Rose had died. If you would find him you must seek 
him among the living. Or if any Derwent Rose had died, 
it was the author of The Hands of Esau and The Vicarage of 
Bray. Dead indeed he might be; for no link now existed 
between him and his youth, unlettered in anything but the 
perfection of a beautiful love. He stood in that sagging 
room in the Rue de la Cordonnerie, what he was and noth- 
ing else. He had been it as long as he had been it, and nei- 
ther more time nor less. No power on earth could make it 
otherwise. No power in heaven would have tried. 
"Well, what's to be done ?" I asked presently. 
We were all three sitting on the corn-bin, they together, 
I nearest the table. They were munching their bread and 
sausage. 

"That's perfectly simple," said Derry. "As I've told you, 
that silly Arnaud business is all over. I'm Derwent Rose. 
Nobody can say I'm impersonating him, can they? So I 
must be him, and if I'm him it's just like anybody else being 
themselves. And I'm awfully sorry it had to be tip-and-run, 
but there wasn't anything else for it at the time. But that's 
all over. I've got that beastly memory nearly off my shoul- 
ders I don't know anybody in England. I remember our 
own village of course in Sussex it was and a few odds 
andends-andoh!" He slapped his knee. "That's where 
I heard the name Oliphant! I didn't know Miss Oliphant 
in England at all. There's a little Julia Oliphant, but she s 
only a kid, and no relation at all probably. But this one s 
a bit like what I could imagine little Julia growing up to be. 
Never mind. What I want to ask you now is about Jenm 
people." 

"Yes, Jennie's people," I said. 



400 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 



It was the drop of gall in the honey of her happiness. 
She would cut his bread and sausage, learn to darn his 
socks, sew on his buttons, wash out his handkerchiefs for 
him; that her hands as well as her heart should serve and 
adore him was all her joy; but I saw the droop of her head 
and the tremor of that upturned lip that betrayed the pearls. 
Julia Oliphant might hardly dare, but this one ah, she was 
so recently a child ! I think she would even have left Derry's 
side for ten minutes might they but have been spent with 
her mother's arms about her and the smell of her father's 
pipe not far away. I don't know whether a tear had ever 
dropped on to that ironing-board of Madame's downstairs. 
I saw one drop now. 

"Yes, Jennie's people," I said again. "I suppose you want 
to know about them ?" 

I saw no harm in reminding him, at any rate, that however 
great things might be happening to him, minor but still im- 
portant ones were happening simultaneously elsewhere. 
Even when you start a new life under the shadow of an old 
one you cannot entirely escape the world and its ordinary re- 
sponsibilities. 

"Of course we do," he said, surprised. "I'm going to 
them the moment things are shipshape again." 

"You may see them even sooner than that. I need hardly 
tell you I shall have to wire to them immediately." 

He sighed a little. "Well, I suppose the music's got to be 
faced," he said quietly. 

"You're not going to try to give me the slip, are you ?" 

Again the surprised look. "Of course not. What have 
I just been telling you? That's the whole idea. If all goes 
as it is going a couple of days might put the stopper on this 
memory business once for all. Then we shall go to them at 
once. I want to get it over." 

I looked around the room again. Practically upon the 
window-sill of it somebody across the street was preparing 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 401 

for bed. In order to get to that upper chamber of theirs 
at all one had to pass through the public room downstairs. 
Everything about the place sighed with age and indefinable 
odour ; one knew not what mould, what sweating life, what 
"silver fishes," those tired old walls did not harbour. I 
don't think I am too fastidious, but that was no place for 
that jonquil, Jennie Aird. 

"Look here, Deny," I said suddenly, "if it's a fair ques- 
tion, how much money have you got ?" 

He looked serious. "Awfully little I'm afraid. And I 
don't know where I'm going to get any either." 

"Haven't you any put away anywhere ?" 

"No." 

"What have you been living on ?" 

"What's left of that five hundred francs you were so good 
as to lend me that and a couple of sketches I sold to a fel- 
low at St Briac. I'm afraid you'll have to wait for that five 
hundred, Sir George." 

"Let me see. When did I lend it to you?" 

"While I was at St Briac, you remember." 

He had forgotten it was his own money. I rose from the 
corn-bin. 

"Very well. You say you're not going to give me the 
slip, and that you're going to Jennie's people the moment 
things are all right. Will you as a first step settle up here 
and come along with me to my hotel now ? You came here 
to lie doggo. That's all over. This is no place for either 
of you." 

He blushed with embarrassment. He hesitated. But evi- 
dently the problem had been worrying him, for he looked 
frankly up. 

"I will on one condition, Sir George. That is that its 
added to the five hundred. I shall be selling my sketches 
presently if you can wait a bit. You're quite right; Jennie 
oughtn't to be here. But I hope the Poste isn't too expen- 
sive. I shall have to pay you back sooner or later." 

"Well, that can stand over for the present. Come and 
see the curtain-wall or whatever it is in the cellars of the 



402 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Hotel de la Poste. Come now. You can fetch your can- 
vases to-morrow. Get your things on, Jennie." 

"They are on," said Jennie. 

"Then just let me leave you for a minute or two." 

I passed down that fissure of a staircase again, opened the 
door of the cabaret, and beckoned to Madame. There, at 
the foot of the stairs, and in complete darkness except for 
the inch that the door was left open, we had our low con- 
versation. 

"Tout va bien, M'sieu'?" she asked with anxious sympa- 
thy. 

"Oui, Madame. The coach will take away your Cen- 
drillon immediately." 

"Is it not as I said to my husband ! And M'sieu' Arnaud 
also goes?" 

"Naturally. They will depart in a few minutes. As for 
their account, it is I who will regulate that if you will pre- 
pare it for to-morrow. And one does not buy goodness of 
heart, Madame; nevertheless " 

Nevertheless, in the short struggle of hands in the dark- 
ness, the hand that proffered and the hand that refused, the 
hand that proffered was the victor. I re-ascended to their 
room. 

The other time I had not knocked, but this time I did so. 
They were as I had left them ready in what they stood up 
in. He carried the little black bundle of her necessaries and 
his own. They took a last look round that warped and won- 
derful and memory-haunted room. . . . 

But I had given them five minutes with its memories while 
I had negotiated with Madame. . . . 

"Ready?" I said. 

We descended that interior crack for the last time. 

There was a sudden hush in the kitchen as we entered. 
The blonde heads, the dark heads, turned above the tunics 
of black and horizon-blue, faces watched us round the 
stacked-up kepis on the table. But though probably little 
else had been talked of for the last hour, none was supposed 
to know that I was the Fairy Godmother who had brought 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 403 

the coach for Cinderella. Deny took no farewell of the 
copains who, with sundry other nationalities, were the 
French population of France. Only Jennie ran towards 
Madame and was pressed for a minute against a bosom well 
able to sustain her weight. Derry got out the bicycles from 
behind the door. Outside he walked ahead between them. 
Jennie and I followed him along the Rue de la Cordonnerie. 

A quarter of an hour later I had asked Madame at my 
hotel to be so obliging as to allow me the use of her tele- 
phone. There was no telephone at Ker Annie, but there was 
one at the Beverleys' hotel, and I knew that Beverley would 
see to it that a message for Alec was delivered immediately. 
I did not think it necessary to tell Beverley what it was all 
about; I merely asked him to send word to the Airds that 
I wished to see them in Dinan to-morrow. 

Then I engaged another room an ordinary hotel bed- 
room, where a chambermaid would bring up hot water in the 
morning and a bath was to be had for stepping across the 
corridor just an ordinary hotel bedroom not a place of 
memories and romance like that tumbling old room over that 
cabaret in the Rue de la Cordonnerie that looked as if it 
had sunk a yard into the earth 



PARTY 
THE HOME STRETCH 



The next day we were five at the Hotel de la Poste. We 

sat long after luncheon, on the creeper-awninged terrace that 
overhangs the Petits Fosses. The other tables had long 
since been cleared, but the waiters, smelling thunder in the 
air, kept well away from ours. 

My heart was sore for Alec too. Officially he had been 
driven to accept the sworn but unbelievable statement; in his 
heart he neither understood nor believed one single word of 
it. It was so unlike the engineering and Rugby football 
that he did understand. That to which his mind always re- 
turned was the plain meaning of these words : Treachery, 
Seduction and Falsehood. 

Madge's reception of the incredible thing had been one of 
the most extraordinary experiences I ever had in my life. 
She and Alec had arrived in Dinan at nine o'clock and had 
come straight to my hotel. At a quarter past nine I had 
locked my bedroom door against the interrupting bootboys 
and chambermaids who busied themselves on staircases and 
landings. The morning stir also filled the courtyard below. 
Jennie and Derry I had told to keep out of the way until 
lunch-time. I had hastily covered my bed, and Madge had 
sat down on the edge of it. During the whole of the time I 
had talked, half a dozen Alecs in the various mirrors had 
met and re-met one another as he had paced the room. 

First of all she had drawn an extraordinarily deep breath. 
Then slowly she had pressed her fingertips over her eyelids. 
Her lips had moved under the little eaves made by her hands. 
She had had the air of trying to see something anew, to see 
a succession of things anew, and -to name them as they came. 
She had sat there for quite two minutes, eyes hidden, lips 
moving, seeing, repeating. . . . 

407 



4 o8 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Then, "The Club " she had breathed. 

And then, "Queen's Gate " 

I had found myself nodding. 

"His brother Arnaud sketching " 

She was well away now. 

Then suddenly her hands had dropped, she had stared at 
me, and a shrill cry had broken explosively from her. 

"The Beautiful Bear! Derwent Rose! I knew it, I 
knew it, I knew it! ... George Coverham, tell me is it? 
Is it?" 

"It is." 

"That afternoon looking at himself in the picture his 
brother in Queen's Gate Arnaud Derwent Rose I knew 
it, I knew it all the time " 

And she had slid with my coverlet gently to the floor. 

And she did in fact recognise him did pick out, as it 
were through some bright reversed telescope of time, that 
still-sealed but identical beauty of the grown man she had 
found so superb. He was like, as a son is like a father, as 
for a fleeting instant a newly-born babe may resemble a 
grandparent. She had wished to meet Derwent Rose. She 
had now met him, at this far end of a corridor of years. 

And I had had to pick her up from where she crouched, 
on a coverlet on my bedroom floor. 

But give her a little time the time to pull herself to- 
gether and you could no more have persuaded Madge that 
it was not so than you could have got Alec to believe it was. 

"But why wasn't I told all this at once ?" he had demand- 
ed, not twice or thrice, but twenty times. "Are you telling 
me now, or am I wrong in my head? Why didn't you? 
Why didn't you? Then he could have been put where he 
belongs in the asylum yonder " 

And again, and yet again : "You brought him to my house, 
you brought him to my house! You practically introduced 
him under a French name you didn't contradict it anyway 
you knew all about him and I wasn't told I'm only told 
after he's stolen my girl ! Why didn't you tell me, Cover- 
ham?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 409 

But I considered that I had less to reproach myself with 
than he thought. I had done everything in my power to 
isolate him, to keep her out of his path. Madge, not I, had 
asked him to Ker Annie. Madge had invited herself to his 
hotel in St Briac. He had given me his word, I had trusted 
to it, and he had broken it. And had I at any time told Alec 
the truth he would no more have comprehended it than he 
did now. 

So he had railed bitterly on, turning the nightmare over 
and over again, meeting and re-meeting himself in the mir- 
rors, very much as Derwent Rose had met and re-met him- 
self in the windings of his marvellous life. 

"Oh, we're mad! We're all mad! Any chance of our 
waking up? And you talk to me about somebody called 
Derwent Rose as if I ought to know all about the fellow the 
moment you mention his name! I never heard of a Der- 
went Rose in my life! Who the devil is Derwent Rose 
anyway ?" 

This at any rate Madge had been able to tell him. 

"But he says he's never written a book in his life ! Who 
should know if he doesn't?" 

I made another attempt. 

"The idea, Alec, is that that is a corroboration of the whole 
thing. He doesn't remember that he ever wrote a book, and 
I've a notion it would be safer not to try to make him re- 
member. Another thing, Alec. You say I'm mad. But 
you can have absolutely independent evidence any time you 
like. Julia Oliphant's in Dinard. She knows nothing of 
what's happening in this room. Go to her and tell her, from 
me, that she's to tell you all she knows about a man called 
Derwent Rose. Then see what she says." 

"And you say you're going to make a legal adoption of 
something that's shaped like a man but ought to be kept in 
a padded room?" 

"I am if it's possible. The letter's written And in the 
box. All we can do is to wait till I've had a reply to it." 

"Oh, we're all daft, we're all daft!" he had cried, his head 
in his hands. 



4 io THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

And that was still his burden that we were all daft. I 
will not deny that there seemed something to be said for it. 

My letter to my solicitors had taken me the best part of 
the night to write. I wanted to be sure of the position with- 
out divulging too much. Derwent Rose existed ; the record 
of his birth was to be found in Somerset House among the 
files for the year 1875, and nowhere was there a certificate 
of his death. If Derwent Rose as he now in fact was ought 
properly to have been born in the year 1902 or thereabouts, 
the thought had come to me that this difference might be 
bridged by my own legal adoption of him. Discreetly I had 
asked for information on this point. If the thing was feasi- 
ble, Derry would then be George Coverham's son, and his 
marriage to Alec Aird's daughter would follow immediately. 
I had not seen what fairer offer I could make, and even Alec 
had grudgingly agreed until the whole thing had once more 
overwhelmed him, and he had cried out that we were all 
daft and ought to be locked up. 

That creeper-hung terrace at the back of the Hotel de la 
Poste will probably never crash with its diners and waiters 
down into the moat below, but it always looks as if it might. 
A few slender iron struts stepped on to the old corbels of 
the wall below support it ; for the rest it is suspended in the 
air, high as the nests in the great elms opposite, part of the 
ivy of the outer wall on which the hotel is built. Save for 
its screen of creeper it is open to the sky, and its dozen or 
so tables stand behind the great letters you read from the 
Fosse far below HOTEL DE LA POSTE. 

And if from the ramparts by St Sauveur you see the 
shirley poppies of the sunset in the east, here you see the 
sun himself, burning intolerable holes through the elms, and 
turning the creeper into a crewelwork of flame and the 
valerian of the walls to dark blood. 

But this was only after lunch, with the sun just outlining 
the wall to our left with brightness and shining on the fruit 
and cheese and coffee-cups which the waiters were itching 
to clear away. In the promenade below, absurd little hats 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 411 

put forth little feet, now fore, now aft, as they went about 
their affairs. Derry's eyes were musingly on the walkers. 
Alec had compelled himself to sit at the same table with us, 
though his own meal had consisted of nothing but a bottle 
of wine. A few moments before he had uttered a grunt, 
that had been understood to mean that, since there was noth- 
ing for it but to wait for letters from London, we might as 
well wait at Ker Annie as here. 

Suddenly Derry removed his eyes from the hats below and 
looked at Alec, deferentially but obstinately. 

"Speaking for myself, sir " 

Though he had nothing of Alec but his profile, he went on. 

"If you don't mind I shall not come. Sir George has tried 
to explain to you, and I've tried to explain to you, that there 
was nothing for it but the way I took. We've agreed it's no 
good going into all that again. Call it my pigheadedness if 
you like ; I can't very well object to anything you call me ; 
but I won't come. I'll come, if I'm still asked, when every- 
thing's settled up. And that should be a week at the out- 
side." 

Alec turned. It was plain that he would loathe his son-in- 
law, when he became that, to the end of his days. 

"It will or it won't," he growled. 

"It can't be much longer than that, sir." 

"Can't it? Let me tell you how it can. I may have to 
swallow that insane yarn for the moment; you've left me 
very little choice took dashed good care of that. But 
you've got to find somebody else crazy enough to get it down 

yet." 

"What do you mean, Alec?" I interposed. 

"Any English parson," Alec flung over his shoulder as 
he rose and walked away. 

Derry sighed as his broad back disappeared into the hotel. 
When you have cut a knot it is difficult to tie it again, 
straightforward course of his choice seemed little less 
crooked than the other. Almost it seemed a mistake after 
all. 



412 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

II 

I perfectly well understood Derry's scruple about going 
to Ker Annie. It was the kind of scruple I should have liked 
a son of mine to have. Except as a husband he had no 
footing in that house, and except as a husband he refused 
to enter it. I think he would have given much to have been 
able to say that he never had set foot in it, but that milk was 
spilt. 

But Jennie would never be torn from his side, and the 
chances were that Madge would not now be torn from Jen- 
nie's. So it looked as if either Alec must return to Dinard 
alone or else stay with us at the Poste and make the best 
of it. 

Half an hour before lunch Madge had done an odd thing. 
She had called me away for a moment from Alec's side, and 
had asked me in which house in the Rue de la Cordonnerie 
I had found them. She had also wanted to know Madame 
Carguet's name. Then she had gone off. ... I had seen 
her embrace of Jennie on her return. Her hand now once 
more stole to Jennie's as, with Alec's departure, we continued 
to sit at the table. 

Again Derry sighed, but I think it was a little wilfully that 
he dwelt on the gloomier side, and that it was not altogether 
unmixed despair. We do allow ourselves these little lux- 
uries at eighteen or thereabouts. 

"Well, I've made a lot of bother," he sighed. 

Madge was half cross, half consoling. "Oh, I expect it 
will come out all right in the end," she said impatiently. 
"He'll come round presently." 

It began to look as if she herself had already come more 
than half-way round. And, now that Alec and his thunder- 
cloud had gone, a waiter ventured to advance. 

"Si on peut desservir, Madame " 

Madge rose abruptly. 

"Yes, let's go out. It's no good sitting here getting mor- 
bid. Which way has my husband gone? Because just for 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 413 

an hour I'm going in the opposite direction. Come along 
let's all go for a walk." 

We left the creepered terrace, crossed the courtyard of the 
hotel, and came out into the Place Duguesclin. 

I think I have discovered what it is that gives certain 
French fagades their air at once luminous and austere. It is 
the roofs above them. Our flat-pitched English roofs thank- 
lessly send back heaven's light where it comes from; but 
these, steeply mansarded, dormered, and hog's-backed again 
above that it is these that flash it into our eyes like mirrors, 
these across which the shadows of the chimneys lie, blots of 
black in the glitter. The fagades themselves may be flatly 
lighted or gloomed over with pastel-like shade; it is above 
that everything happens, above that the sun, the brick and 
the shining slate play out the drama of the altering day. 

And the sun was Lord of Dinan that afternoon. He 
turned the arcades of the fishmarket to barrels of blackness, 
but crowned the roofs beyond with flashing silver. The dark 
limes of the Place Duguesclin might drink up his rays like 
green blotting-paper, but the east side of the Square gave 
them out again as if the pale paint and chalk and plaster had 
been self-luminous faint greens of peeling ironwork, flaky 
blues of closed shutters, the dazzle of the roof, the chimneys 
like tall dominoes on end, patched with bricks of rose. And 
what a town for him to play with ! The towers, the gates, 
the ivied encircling walls, are but the outer shell of the im- 
memorial place ; within it, what pranks and gaieties of light 
and under-light and hide-and-seek of shadows does not his 
Lordship play ! Derry began to cheer up. Eighteen is never 
downcast for long. This father-in-law-elect of his might sit 
morosely at the same table with them or take his bottle of 
wine to whatever table he pleased ; the sun would shine on 
carved stone and old painted wood just the same. Yes, Derry 
bucked up, and in a bright voice began to take command. 

"I say, let's have a peep into the Cordeliers," he said. "It 
was shut the last time I tried to get in." 

Under the legs of the Porches, across the street and in at 
the half -open portail we passed. 



4 i4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Oh, yes, Deny was decidedly better. He had treated 
Alec with grave deference, if not with entire submission; 
but now less and less did he seem to consider himself a 
culprit. As we passed along the cloisters he paused to show 
Madge a "Ci-gist" or a bit of old woodwork let into a wall ; 
and from these he turned to the affiches and class-lists of the 
wall on the other side. His head was high. He was Der- 
went Rose, fixed and indivisibly. If lately he had not been 
so, so much the better these times than those. He was go- 
ing ahead ; he was going to marry ; a year hence might find 
him looking exactly a year older than he looked at this mo- 
ment; and though for the moment a certain modesty and 
humility might be due from him, abjectness and shame no. 
He trod the cobbles and dalles lightly by Madge's side. And 
I think that already the rogue knew that he could turn her 
round his finger as he pleased. 

For while Alec might never have heard of a novelist called 
Derwent Rose, and might secretly be rather proud of the 
fact, she had read every word he had ever written. She 
knew more about it than he knew about himself, since he 
now knew nothing. Perhaps, walking silently by his side, 
she realised the power and passion at present folded up in 
him, but soon again to be declared. And perhaps she saw 
even further than his own re-creation. There is a passion 
of grandmotherhood, different, but even more unrelenting 
than that tender rage that brings us all into the world. That 
Jennie should never have married was inconceivable ; Jennie 
was to have married whom she chose ; and what, for beauty 
and gentleness and knowledge and strength, could she have 
chosen better than this? Were there whispers in Dinard? 
Madge was capable of dealing with them. If there was talk, 
then there should be more talk, till all was talked down. By 
and by Madge would start her own, the authentic version of 
the affair. And with this young man presently settled as 
George Coverham's adopted son, and Jennie blushing and 
brooding on the other side of her, it would be a strange thing 
indeed if Madge Aird, who knew as much about intimate his- 
tories as anybody, could not put some sort of a face upon it. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 415 

Authoritatively Derry led us through the cloisters and 
under a low tunnel-like arch. We came out into a bright 
courtyard with plane trees and doors at intervals round it. 

"This is what I wanted to see," he said smilingly, but a 
little as if what he wanted to see overruled everything else. 
"Especially that bit over there." 

It was a lime-white old court, with tourelles to the west 
and north. In its south-eastern corner rose a slated ogival 
turret with a gilded ornamental fleche. An old woman in 
a lace cap was filling a bucket at a tap, and from one of the 
dark upper windows came a girl's light laugh. Through one 
of the doorways a glimpse could be seen of school-desks, 
grey and cracked and dry as the legs of the Porches them- 
selves. The tourelle in front of us carried a little side-belfry, 
and its inch-thick plaster had flaked off in great maps, show- 
ing the rubble beneath. And again the sunlight was ab- 
sorbed by the plane trees, but blazed on the roof, made the 
fleche a vivid sparkle against the blue, and seemed to pene- 
trate into the very substance of the soft decaying white. 

"Now just come and have a look at this," said Derry, 
striding across the court. 

The thing that he had brought us to see might almost have 
passed unnoticed in Dinan, where at every corner something 
that man's fine wit has carved has been uncarved again by 
stupid and obliterating Time. It was no more than a bit of 
moulding, the upper edge of which caught the sun, directly, 
making the cavetto underneath it a soft yellowing glow. 
But into that rounded plaster tourelle with the belfry a flat 
door had at one time been placed without interruption to the 
moulding, and in the result the sun had a frolic indeed. For 
no man had designed that miraculous accident where curve 
and flat met and deliciously quarrelled, to be reconciled again 
by the sun's laughing kiss. Never did light and its opposite 
more sweetly interchange and compose. ... I don't want 
you to think this is my own observation. But for Deny 
I should probably not have given it a glance. But for him 
it was a thing to come specially to see. He stood before it, 
moving his hand a little this way and a little that, as in a 



4 i6 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

sparkling room one will place one's hand over glass or wa- 
ter to see whether it is indeed that which makes the little 
fairy-ribbon on the wall. He peered underneath, he stood 
off, he glanced up at the sun. With his hand throwing the 
shadow, the sun and he were partners. 

"What is it, Derry?" I asked him. 

He laughed. "What is it? I should say it was every- 
thing," he replied. "Everything there is, and if there's any 
more, that too." 

"Are you going to paint it, dearest ?" Jennie asked. 

Returned. "Eh?" he said. 

And there, in that sun-flooded court, I had a swift pre- 
monition. Something seemed to tell me that he was not 
going to paint it. Neither was he going to write about it, 
nor even to speak of it again. He had no wish to communi- 
cate it to any other person, by any means whatever. That he 
himself possessed the pure understanding of it was enough ; 
he would not even care that any should know that he knew, 
so he might but have the bliss of knowing. His painting was 
over, as his writing was over. Contemplation, withdrawal, 
solitude, the infinite soft ecstasy of being at one with that 
which is not one self, though it were but the sunlight on a 
bit of fifteenth-century plaster that, it now flashed sud- 
denly on me, was what we might henceforward expect. 

And though he understood all mysteries, and had all 
knowledge, yet he now had something even richer to profit 
him. He had his Love. 

"I should very much like a cup of tea," said Madge. 

Instantly he was all graceful attention. The human de- 
sire for a cup of tea was equally a thing to be understood. 

"This glare does get in your eyes a bit," he smiled. 
"There's a nice shady place not five minutes away." 

As he led us back through the cloisters he all but took her 
arm. 

His place was gratefully shady. Through a small teashop 
one passed into a sort of leafy cage that, I learned, had at 
one time been an aviary. It was empty, and at a little rustic 
table against the trellis we sat down. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 417 

"Would you mind ordering, Sir George?" he said. "This 
is one of my off-days for French, I'm afraid." 

I ordered tea. 

My new premonition proceeded to take still further pos- 
session of me. As he chatted with modest freedom to 
Madge I fell more and more into abstraction. I suppose 
that in all the circumstances it was my part to have taken 
charge of the conversation, to have guided it through the 
rocks and shoals of the difficult position, but I couldn't. 
Anyway he seemed quite capable of doing so. 

Capable? There was nothing of which he was not capa- 
ble. And yet at the same time he was capable of nothing! 
For, supposing that my foreboding was right, what was his 
future? Isolation and Oblivion indeed! What man can 
live, sufficient unto himself, excommunicated from the world, 
wrapped in the vanity that he is not as others? Who dare 
dwell alone with Truth? Is it not our anchorage and our 
joy to run with our little half-truths in our hands and to 
thrust them upon our neighbour, that he may admire and 
share them with us ? Who so great that some such littleness 
is not the very leaven of his life? Derwent Rose had writ- 
ten; Derwent Rose had painted; and now Derwent Rose 
would withdraw himself to some Tower, shut the door be- 
hind him, and be forgotten of men because their affairs were 
too small for him. ... It was just as well that I was going 
to adopt him. What otherwise would his living be? In 
what corner of earth would he plant his cabbages and cherish 
his perfect and unprofitable knowledge ? 

And would he retain his simplicity of heart, or would he 
harden into arrogance, sour into contempt, and yes^ it 
had to be faced once more ask of God that One Question 
Too Many? . . . 

And she, his meek and sweet Semele? How long would 
she endure this partnership of his Oblivion? How long 
would it be before she prayed that that Tower might fall and 
crush her into the earth? She was only Jennie Aird, seven- 
teen years old, with the nape under her red-gold hair hardly 
yet browned by its exposure to the sun. Happier I cannot 



4 iS THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

say; but better perhaps for her had she never seen this 
lovely lad who was so soon to be my son. She had married 
an angel, had endured his caress. But she could not follow 
him to his skies. 

It was half-past five when we reached the hotel, and Alec 
was there waiting for us. He asked Madge where we had 
been, and when she said to the Convent of the Cordeliers I 
am pretty sure that I heard him mutter under his breath that 
that was exactly where "he" would spend his spare time 
hanging about a girls' school. 

"Well, I suppose you're staying here to-night," he said 
gruffly to his wife. "I'm going back. I may come again 
to-morrow. Better put a stop to those inquiries unless 
they take it into their heads to bolt again. I shall probably 
be here by the nearest train to midday. I'm off now. Good 
night." 

Poor fellow ! I suppose it was the nearest approach to a 
kiss he could bring himself to give his wife and only child. 

Something, I forget what, happened about our table on 
the terrace that night, and we had to dine in the room of 
which it was an extension. The sun was having his last and 
most magnificent fling for that day. He turned the room in 
which we sat to ebony-black. The eye could hardly distin- 
guish in the corners the neo-Greek furnishings of key-pat- 
tern and fretted valances, of amphorae on pedestals, of frieze 
and dentel and sham black marble. But everywhere through 
the ebony ran like wildfire a gold that the eye could hardly 
bear. A waiter would be lost in blackness save for a spot 
of burning gold on brow or nose-bridge or knuckle ; a glass, 
a knife-blade or the edge of a plate would flash like a dia- 
mond. The creeper outside flamed like the Burning Bush 
itself ; you would not have thought that the head of a woman 
dining under it could have flamed more, yet it did. And 
the glass of water she lifted pierced like a heliograph into the 
room. 

And it was as we dined, not talking much, that Madge 
capitulated completely. The sun played "I spy" with the 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 419 

white hand she suddenly put on Berry's brown one. She 
was not speaking to me, but I heard. 

"Oh, my dear, dear boy you'll see it will be all right- 
be a little patient his bark's ever so much worse than his 
bite and come and say good night to your mother pres- 
ently." 



Ill 

Derry now wore the English suit he had worn on the day 
when he had come to tea at Ker Annie, Jennie the white 
frock and the little white cap in which she had stolen out 
of the house that night. I never knew what became of their 
French clothes. To all appearances we were now four Eng- 
lish sight-seers in a place where English sight-seers are 
bumped into at every turn. And I must mention a curious 
little incident that occurred when, the next morning, after 
breakfast, we left the hotel and strolled into the Church of 
St Sauveur to see how the little girls were getting on with 
their decoration for the approaching fete. 

There is only one decent piece of glass in St Sauveur. 
That is the window of the north transept that looks down 
on the burial-place of Du Guesclin's heart. As we passed 
among the gay and lightsome shrines Jennie happened to 
pause under this window. I saw his sudden dead stop. 

It is a remarkable thing when a man does the same thing 
twice in his life, each time for the first time. He looked at 
Jennie in St Sauveur just as, all those years before, he had 
looked at somebody else in a village church in Sussex ; and 
he had no knowledge of the repetition. She stood there, all 
low-toned pearls of frock and cool dark apricot of face and 
neck ; her hair peeped forth beneath the little hat ; and there, 
under the mellow ambers and ruby-dust and bits of green 
that might have been dyed in Dinard's sea, for a minute she 
was aureoled. . . . She moved on, and we followed. 

But in that moment it was not he who had been haled 
back into that earlier time. That was all over for him. He 



420 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

did all anew. It was I myself who had come close to the 
ghost of my own youth. 

The nearest train to twelve o'clock, by which Alec had 
said he would arrive, was the one reaching Dinard at twelve- 
fifteen. The one before that, leaving Dinard at ten-twelve, 
ran on certain days only, and moreover would hardly have 
allowed Alec the necessary time in which to stop the various 
inquiries he had set afoot. Therefore we had a long morn- 
ing to ourselves, and it mattered little how we spent it. In- 
deed it mattered very little now what we did with our time 
until my letters should arrive from London. 

So once more that morning, watching Deny, I seemed to 
be watching, not the Derry actually by rriy side, but a Derry 
who had been a stripling when I had been in my middle 
twenties. For example, a troop of dragoons clattered past, 
in blue steel hats, dark blue tunics, red breeches, black boots ; 
and I saw the sparkle of his eyes at the four red pennons they 
carried. Just so, for all I knew, his eyes had sparkled when 
he had first seen the sentries at the Horse Guards. We 
strolled on to the Porte St Louis, and under its arch he 
paused. He examined the portcullis-grooves, the remnants 
of hinges, the steep couloirs down which the stones had been 
rolled and the boiling water poured from the guard-room 
above. I don't know whether in his other boyhood he had 
known York or Sandwich, but I saw by his face that his 
memory reduplicated those old echoings, the clanging of iron, 
the hurtling of stones, the shouting of men within the ring- 
ing arch. Outside in the Petits Fosses it was the same. He 
peered into slits, glanced at the machicolations aloft, meas- 
ured salients and re-entrants and dead-ground with his eyes. 
I think he saw that "belier a griffes" again in use, the stag- 
gering storied sow pushed up to the walls by the horses and 
oxen in the hide-hung penthouse behind. . . . And this same 
man had seen modern war ! He had flung the Mills and the 
"hairbrush," had worn a box-respirator, seen wire-netted 
gunpits and flame-throwing and the white puff-balls follow- 
ing the aeroplanes through the sky. Extraordinary, ex- 
traordinary ! I could not get used to it. ... 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 421 

At twelve o'clock I walked on to the station to meet Alec. 
His train was a few minutes late. It drew up on the farther 
set of rails. At Dinan one walks across on the level, and as 
I advanced to meet him I saw him appear round the engine. 

But not until a moment later did I see that he was followed 
by Julia Oliphant. 

She was dressed in travelling-tweeds, but it was not the 
tweeds that filled me with the instant conviction that she was 
departing and had come to say good-bye to Madge. It was 
rather something indefinable in her face. Nor had she come 
to corroborate my story. She and Alec had doubtless 
already got that over, if ever it could be got over. She 
greeted me with a faint smile, but without speaking. In 
fact I don't think that one of the three of us spoke during 
the seven or eight minutes it took us to reach the Poste. 

Once more something had happened about our terrace- 
table. Perhaps because of the slight lateness of Alec's train, 
added to the quarter of an hour we had already delayed our 
meal (for dejeuner at the Poste is at twelve), the only table 
capable of seating six had been made over to a party of 
visitors who would depart in little more than an hour by the 
vedette. 

This, however, seemed to suit Alec rather than otherwise. 
He took Madge by the arm. 

"Then you come over here," he said to her. "You've got 
till six o'clock to talk to Julia. I want a word with you 
first." 

"And I want a word with you too/' I heard her reply as 
she turned to follow him. 

So Madge and Alec lunched some tables away, out of 
earshot, while Julia and Jennie, Derry and myself, sat down 
behind the iron "O" of the sign HOTEL DE LA POSTE. 

Had it not been for Derry I think our lunch would have 
been as silent as our walk from the station had been. Jennie 
rolled bread-pellets and fiddled with salt. I moodily won- 
dered whether Julia would not have done better to have 
taken her farewells with Madge as said and have stayed 
away But it frequently happens that a happy mood at the 



422 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

beginning of an acquaintance sets the key for the meetings 
that follow. Derry had come off gaily best with Miss Oli- 
phant when, instead of questioning her about that bicycle 
she had fetched from St Briac, he had anticipated her and 
had taken the wind out of her sails with smiling acquies- 
cence ; and he now was wreathed in ease and charm. There 
was a dash of the gentlemanly devil about that son-elect of 
mine. His grey-blue eyes were frequently downcast, but 
when he did lift them that imp of fun and mischief peeped 
unmistakably out. 

"I'd no idea when I showed you my sketches that morn- 
ing that you were a painter yourself, Miss Oliphant," he 
said demurely over his soup. "Jennie only told me after- 
wards. I don't think that was quite fair of you. . . . What 
do you paint?" asked the man who had stood before her, 
stripped to the waist, with her sewing-machine held aloft. 

"Very little lately," said Julia composedly. 

"Now you're putting me off. But of course I ought to 
have known. You can always tell by the way a person looks 
at a thing whether they know anything about it or not. Do 
tell me what you paint !" 

"I'm supposed to be painting Sir George's portrait one of 
these days." 

"Ah!" A polite little inclination of the head made you 
forget the mischief for a moment. "I'm no good at por- 
traits. Never dared try, in fact, except for that sketch of 
Jennie, and you can hardly call that a portrait. It would 
take more experience than I've got. You'd have to know a 
good deal about a person before you risked painting their 
portrait I should think, wouldn't you ?" 

And that of course was pure mischief again, for he was 
virtually telling her, though without words, that she knew 
very little about him if she had expected him to give his in- 
tentions away by making a fuss about that bicycle. And 
similarly unspoken was his daring little invitation to her 
to her who had drawn him from memory as King Arthur, 
in armour and a golden beard "Won't you learn a little 
about me and paint me one of these days ?" 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 423 

So I watched her as she saw, for the second time in her 
life, what I saw for the first time in mine the father of the 
man he had been and was to be again, his acts and gesture c 
varying with a thousand accidents of circumstance, but him- 
self essentially and unchangeably the same. You may 
charge me if you will with laying claim to knowledge after 
the event, but there radiated from every particle of him his 
own yet-folded potentialities. His gentle mischief towards 
her was the germ of that masterful wit that had made the 
Barnacles of The Vicarage of Bray skip at his pleasure. 
His good-humour and urbanity and willingness to talk while 
we sat oppressed and silent were, in little, the qualities that 
had bloomed in his mature work, The Hands of Esau. Only 
the fierce passion of An Ape in Hell was to seek, and none 
could have said that it did not lurk there, inappropriate to 
the occasion, therefore uncalled on, but deep-slumbering 
under all. 

And if I was able to make a dim guess or two at these 
involutions, what of this woman to whom it was not guess- 
ing, but open knowledge? In her mind was a parallelism 
indeed ! I had seen one trifle for myself that very morning 
his sudden stop when Jennie had paused under the window 
of St Sauveur; but of just such bright threaded beads of 
memories her whole life, all of it that was worth anything 
to her, had been composed. Her unwavering love had been 
the string that had held all together. And not only did she 
sit there now telling, as it were, these beads over, to the last 
one drowned at the bottom of the pools of her deep eyes ; 
she had them uniquely and desolately to herself. He, who 
had provided them, had no part whatever in them. She 
could no longer say "Do you remember this or that/' He 
remembered only from the moment of his setting eyes on 
Jennie. As unconsciously as when he had stripped to the 
waist for her, as unknowingly as when he had swum before 
her, he now seared her in his very innocence and ignorance. 
A village church Sussex fields and lanes a day at Chal- 
f on t another day somewhere else and a week-end at my 
house ... oh, the jewels were quickly counted. Perhaps 



4 2 4 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

she had others of which I did not know. If so, they were 
the secret of the eyes that looked away past the elms, down 
on to the walking hats in the Fosse below. 

And he would grow up again, but she could only continue 
her life. In another twenty years he would be as old as 
she was now ; but she, I myself . . . only Jennie, only Jen- 
nie would be by his side on that distant day. At some still 
unknown fireside, in some unguessed house or garden, they 
would speak of "poor old Miss Oliphant, poor old Cover- 
ham," long since out of the way. Different generations, dif- 
ferent generations ! 

And I cannot be sure of this, and I shall never know 
but I do not think that by this time he, who had started the 
whole mystic thing, had the least recollection of anything 
whatever he had been and done. 

"But look here, Miss Oliphant," he was saying. "Jennie's 
going to lie down this afternoon ; won't you let me take you 
for a walk? Let's go to Lehon or somewhere. You don't 
mind, do you, Jennie? And" he laughed, perfectly con- 
scious of his charming and irresistible impudence "it seems 
awfully stiff to go on calling you Miss Oliphant! Sounds 
so fearfully high-and-dry ! Oh, I know! Shocking scan- 
dal! But if you'll come for a walk with me " He 

twinkled. 

Jennie had not uttered a word. Nor had she eaten more 
than a few crumbs. Suddenly she got up. 

"I'm going to lie down now," she said. Then, turning 
timidly to Julia, "Can you come with me for just a minute 
Julia?" 

Julia got instantly up, passed round the table, and pre- 
ceded her into the hotel. 

Other lunchers also were astir. The party of visitors who 
had usurped our table were settling up with the waiter. 
Derry and I sat awaiting Julia's return. Alec and Madge, 
at the neighbouring table, seemed to have finished their talk. 
I did not know what Alec's announcement to her had beer. 
What she had said to him I thought I could guess. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 425 

Suddenly, after an absence of barely five minutes, Julia 
reappeared. She walked straight up to Madge and held out 
her hand. 

"What?" I heard Madge's surprised exclamation. "But 
I thought " 

" by the boat, I think . . . ever so much . . . delight- 
ful. . . ." 

She shook hands with them and crossed over to us. 
She looked straight into Derry's face. We were all 
standing. The five or six words she spoke were as if 
she was telling those beads again. Each one was isolated, 
bright, lingering yet relentlessly passing, a thank-offering, 
a prayer 

"So long Derry dear . . . all the best," she said, 
her hand in his. 

"Good-bye Julia," he said, smiling. 

She walked away. 

I caught her up in front of the hotel. Little groups of 
people moved across the lime-shaded Square, all in one di- 
rection, seeking the Porches and the Lainerie, leaving them- 
selves comfortable time for the vedette. We followed them. 
She did not take my arm, neither did any word pass between 
us. 

Under the Porches, past the Convent we went. The 
groups of people became more frequent as they concentrated 
from various luncheon-places. We dropped down the steep 
astounding street that is called Jerzual. We were nearly at 
the Porte, of which the twelfth-century portion is the mod- 
ern part, before she opened her lips. 

"I hate people who cry," she said suddenly. 

Then she closed her lips again. 

I supposed she meant Jennie. I didn't answer. 

She only spoke once more. This was at the embarcadere, 
as she stepped on to the vedette. 

"Don't wait," she said. "I suppose I shall be seeing you 
in London some time." 

Obediently I turned away. 



426 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

IV 

Alec had had nothing new to say to Madge. Only the 
variations had been a little more elaborate. The thing was 
as lunatic to him as ever, and it all came of not stopping 
in one's own country. Things like that never happened at 
his office in Victoria Street or on the Rectory Ground at 
Blackheath. 

"You can stay on here if you like, but I'm off back," he 
said. "And the next time you catch me in France or any- 
where else foreign you can tell me about it. And you can 
let me know when they're married. Does that three-eighteen 
run to-day, or is that another of their Sundays-and-week- 
days excepted?" 

"The waiter will tell you," said Madge. 

"Damn the waiter," said Alec. 

So there were four of us at the Hotel de la Poste. 

I don't know what happened to letters during those early 
September days in Dinan. Somebody told me they went on 
to Paris to be sorted; I only know that it took an uncon- 
scionable time to get an answer from a place I could have 
got to and back again in a couple of days. And as three, and 
then four days passed, I think I could have written a Guide 
Book to Dinan, so familiar with it did I begin to come. 
And always it was a laughing, buoyant, affectionate and 
extraordinarily clever Derry who conducted us everywhere. 

Then, when finally my letter did arrive, it was inexplicit, 
and I had either to go to London myself or write again. It 
was Madge who entreated me to stay. So I wrote my sec- 
ond letter. 

Often we went out into the surrounding country as a 
change from the town. Derry never touched a brush, never 
once mentioned painting. Occasionally he and Jennie went 
off together somewhere, but for the most part we kept to- 
gether. So far I had to admit that there was no sign of his 
young godhead being too much for his simple white-hearted 
Semele. She adored him with every particle of herself, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 427 

from the feet that ran to meet him to the eyes that continu- 
ally thanked his face for being what it was. And never 
Bayard nor Du Guesclin nor Beaumanoir of them all had 
served his lady with a gentler love than young Derwent Rose 
had for Jennie Aird. 

One morning at a little before ten we went up into the 
Clock Tower in the Rue de THorloge. This tower, together 
with the belfry of St Sauveur, is the highest point of the 
ancient town that crowns Dinan's rock. Up and up inside 
the turret we mounted, through lofts and empty chambers 
and timbered garrets, till the stone gave way to slate and 
wood and lead, and the soft tock-tocking of the clock itself 
began to sound. The clock is in a room with a locked and 
glass-panelled door, a machine of brass on an iron table, 
with a slow escapement, compensated pendulums, and the 
white hemp ropes of the weights disappearing through a hole 
in the floor to the stories below. On the iron table stood an 
oilcan, and the small indicator-clock showed a few minutes 
to ten. A circular piercing in the wall gave us light, and 
light also streamed down through the opening where the 
wooden ladder rose to the upper platform. We peered 
through the glass door, while "Tock-tock, tock-tock" spoke 
the unhurrying clock. . . . 

Then on the verge of ten a large vane slipped and dis- 
solved itself into a mist, to the murmur of moving wheels. 
Four times on an open third sounded the warning tenor bell 
overhead; and then the twin vane slipped and dissolved. 
There was a clang that shook the timbers inside their skin 
of lead. . . . 

"Come along, Jennie!" cried Deny, making a dash for 
the belfry, while again the bell thundered out. . . . 

It was two short flights up, but Madge and I were after 
them in time to hear the last two strokes. The structure still 
trembled with an enormous humming. This lasted for min- 
utes, wave succeeding wave, crests and troughs of lingering 
sound, diminishing but seeming as if they would never quite 
cease. Our eyes sought one another's eyes expectantly as 
we waited for the last murmur of the hymning metal. . . . 



428 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Then light voices floated up from the street again, and 
the noises of the town could be heard once more. 

"Just look at the view!" said Deny, hanging half over 
the rail. 

But I wanted a rope round my waist before I approached 
that rail. A head for heights is not one of the things of 
which I boast. 

Another day, this time in the afternoon, we pulled in a 
skiff a mile or two down the Ranee, where men were fishing 
with the "balance" the net on the crossed bough-like arms 
that made a dripping bag while the rope ran over the pulley 
of the pry-pole. Men used the same machine in the 
days before Moses, they are using it to-day on the Ranee and 
the Yang-tse-Kiang. It was this vast antiquity that seemed 
to strike Derry, even more than the fortifications had struck 
him, even more than that clock that tried to measure with its 
"tock-tock" something that had no beginning and can have 
no end. Several times he seemed on the point of speaking, 
but each time desisted. There was nothing to be said, no 
word that, like the clock, was more than "tock-tock, tock- 
tock." And I fancied that for a day or more past he had 
talked much less, that he was ceasing to talk, as he had 
ceased to write, as he had ceased to paint. He sat for long 
spells thinking, as if measuring that which was himself 
against all that was not himself and coming to his under- 
standing about it. ... He and Jennie had the oars. Sud- 
denly he gave a little laugh, very musical, and took the oar 
again. 

"Stroke," he said. 

We set off back up the stream. 

We landed at the Old Bridge and began the ascent to the 
town ; but near the Arch of Jerzual, almost on the very spot 
where Julia had said she hated people who cried, he stopped 
again. From a dark interior on our left had come the 
knocking of a hand-loom. We entered, and Madge trans- 
lated his questions into French. 

Once more he seemed to find the same fascination the 
spell of the oldest and of the newest, the first primitive 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 429 

principle of which our modern inventions are but elaborated 
conveniences, man measuring his strength and pitting his 
wit against all that is not man. So men had fished, so they 
did fish. So they had woven, so they did weave. They had 
fought in steel caps with hand-grenades in the past, they 
fought in steel caps with hand-grenades still. And nothing 
to be written, painted or said. As it had been in the be- 
ginning it would be until the end. A momentary life was 
not meant for the expression of these things. They were 
for contemplation, perfect understanding, and silence. 

That was on a Saturday; evening. After dinner we 
strolled to the Jardin des Anglais again and stood looking 
over the ramparts. There were no shirley poppies in the 
sky now, but a serene unbroken heaven, a tender blue fad- 
ing to the still tenderer peaches and greys that merged into 
the darkening land. The cypresses below us were inky 
black, the river where the fishermen had fished a soft thread 
of inverted sky. Folk again took their evening stroll round 
the walls. None of us spoke. I was wondering what Julia 
Oliphant was doing in London. 

Suddenly Derry broke the silence. He did so in these 
words. 

"It's all right for Lehon and the Chateau de Beaumanoir 
to-morrow morning, I suppose?" 

"Yes, dear boy," said Madge. 

How was she to have known, how was I to have known, 
how "all right" it was for Lehon, the Chateau de Beau- 
manoir and to-morrow ? 



The chateau stands a bare mile out of Dinan, and we had 
been there half a dozen times before; but Derry loved those 
crumbling old towers on their upstanding rock. It rises al- 
most sheer, buttressed round with the broken works, and 
from the talus to the plateau on the top is a network of pre- 
cipitous paths. You ascend it very much as you can, and 
the view that is blocked as you approach it breaks on vou 



430 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

from the summit first the sickening gulf of air at your feet, 
then the three or four miles of the southward plain, and the 
canalised Ranee parting company with its attendant road to 
Tressaint, ecluse after ecluse, until it picks it up again to- 
wards Evran. That is when you look south. To the north, 
peering down through oak and beech as you might peer over 
the edge of a nest, are glimpses of white ribbon the road 
along which you have passed. And on the level plateau in 
the middle, enclosed by oak and beech and lime, rubble-built 
but with dressed stone buttresses, stands the tiny modern 
Chapel of St Joseph of Consolation. 

Jennie and Derry waited at the top of the last zigzag for 
Madge and myself, and then gave us time to recover our 
breath. It was eleven o'clock of a Sunday morning, and 
Dinan's bells sounded lightly in the distance. They lan- 
guished almost like human voices as, instead of quickening 
for the final summons, they delayed, with longer and longer 
intervals until, when you expected just one more sweet note, 
all was silence. 

I think that what gives that chateau-crowned rock its air 
of lightsome space is that you come to it from Dinan, where 
everything crowds upon you, the Porches trample you, and 
the people across the street go to bed practically on the sill 
of your window. True, from the ramparts you have sweep 
enough, but unless you go there very early you get a medi- 
ocre, unbroken illumination, with every shadow hidden be- 
hind the face that is turned towards you, and two tones 
paint all, the pale blue of the sky and the average of the 
lighted land. So there is little to be seen from the Chateau 
de Beaumanoir to the north. 

But turn your face south, and ah! That is where the 
brightness lies! That flat average of greens and browns 
disappears, and you are looking, not at colour, but at Light 
itself! And yet every shadow points directly at you. All 
the sun that there is is on your own face there, and graving 
as if on a tarnished silver plate a glittering outline round 
every object you see. Not a green, not a brown ; all is grey ; 
but twinkles with a silver edge every tree of Ranee's valley, 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 431 

and fuming silver is every thread of house-smoke that as- 
cends. That stretch of lock that is lost again towards Tres- 
saint is a needle-flash, and you see the summer clouds only 
as you see the poplar-sheddings that float over the gulf in 
June as if save for their edges they did not exist. 

Then, turning your back on the glitter, you see the heavy 
browns and greens and ochres of the ruins once more. 

"Do they never open this chapel, I wonder?" said Deny, 
peering through the grille of the closed door. 

I peeped in after him. It had a tiny altar with four 
tapers, and a blue-and-white pennon with a device upon it. 
The little porcelain Virgin was blue and white and gold, and 
under the three lancet windows a dozen rickety chairs stood. 
The walls were whitewashed, with a picture here and there, 
and there was a rat-hole in the floor: A small and very bad 
rose- window reminded me of the window of St Sauveur, 
and I turned away again. 

We pottered about here and there among the scrub and 
masonry. Seen from above, the west tower, that which 
looks over to Trelivan, is the most complete ; but the one to 
the south-west can be entered by climbing down half-effaced 
steps in the thickness of the wall. I descended. But there 
was nothing to see inside but the peep through a single loop- 
hole. Its walls chirped with grasshoppers, and a thin screen 
of oak gave it a roof. I was restless, and came out again. 
I wanted my letters from London. Then this interminable 
business would be quickly finished. 

But London reminded me once more of Julia Oliphant, of 
what she was doing, of what she would do. ... 

Madge was waiting for me when I re-ascended. The oth- 
ers were nowhere to be seen. And we no longer had the 
ruins to ourselves. Over by the zigzag path to the east of 
the rock I heard voices and the brushing of branches. But 
the colline is so overgrown with shrub that it is not difficult 
to lose anybody. Derry and Jennie could not be far away. 

"I expect they're looking for blackberries," said Madge. 

"Then they'll be on the sunny side," I replied ; and I led 
her across the shady plateau. 



432 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Then suddenly Madge saw them, for she called "Be care- 
ful there, children!" They were standing on the brink of 
the southern tower, looking away into the brightness. Close 
to them a mountain-ash overhung the deep, and about the 
scabious at the foot of it butterflies hovered, part of the 
airy light. Her hand was on his shoulder, her white frock 
a luminosity of grey shadow. About one pink glowing ear 
her loosened hair was a radiance of coppery gold. 

But the newly-come party was close behind us. Through 
the leaves I heard a rustle and a woman's voice suddenly 
raised. 

"I'm sure I saw him come this way " 

"I should get rid of the little beast if I were you," a man's 
voice growled. 

Then the woman's voice uplifted again. "Puppvtty! Pup- 
petty! Oh, you naughty boyl" 

The man and the woman appeared. 

"Puppetty! Puppetty! . . . Excuse me, have you seen 

anything of a little Good heavens alive, if it isn't Sir 

George Coverham ! Of all the fancy meeting " 

But I had eyes for her for one fleeting instant only. All 
at once there had come a stifled cry from Derry. He stood 
there, dark against the morning light, embroidered round 
with light. His eyes were immovably on that woman who 
had called the dog on that Daphne Bassett who, in years 
that were now clean-sponged from his memory, had been 
Daphne Wade. Jennie too was staring at her, bewildered 
that he should stare so. Her hand was still on his shoulder. 
She drew a little more closely to him. 

The struggle that began on his darkened face was a strug- 
gle to remember something; or perhaps its real beginning 
was that he seemed to remember that there was some.thing 
to remember. But what ? Not a book that he had written ? 
Not a book that she had written ? Not two books, of which 
he had written one and she the other? He had never writ- 
ten a book had never dreamed of writing a book ; he left 
that to clever people like Sir George Coverham and Mrs. 
Aird "Mummie." 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 433 

A picture, then? No, not a picture. He had dabbled in 
paint for a bit there was a lot of stuffy old canvas in the 
hotel now but it couldn't be that. ... He did not look at 
Jennie. His hands tried to put her away from him. He 
muttered hoarsely. 

"Let me go, Jennie, let me go." 

But she only held him the more closely, both arms now 
wrapped about him. 

Then he cried out sharply, loudly. "Let golet go, I say 
and don't look take your eyes away don't look at my 
face!" 

But she would now never let him go. She would look at 
his face, yes, even though he commanded her not to, be- 
cause of what had already begun to pass there. . . . 

And what that was you may see by turning back to the 
beginning of this book. Yesterday, in the Tour de 1'Hor- 
loge, a clock had prepared to strike the hour. It had begun 
with the soft fluttering of a vane that had dissolved into a 
mist ; there had been the murmur of mechanism, those prepa- 
ratory notes on an open third. 

But this was not hearing. It was seeing. We all saw. 
Jennie saw. 

As the hues of a coloured top alter at a touch of the fin- 
ger, so change began to succeed change over that face with 
its back to the morning light. 

Oh, by no means violent ones at first. Quite gentle ones. 
We merely saw the youth who had painted a few pictures, 
the young man who had swum the Channel, the athlete who 
had discussed tides and currents with boatmen in the Lord 
Warden at Dover 

Then a certain acceleration (though you must understand 
that this fantasia on Time that we watched is but compara- 
tive, happened in a few instants, more quickly than I can 
write or you read). Against the sun a glint of golden beard 
appeared and was gone in a twink. I had once seen that 
beard at breakfast-time, in a South Kensington mews. 

But oh my heart! Then a terrific leap! . . . His whole 
form bulked, loomed. Eleven years descended on him like a 



434 THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 

Nasmyth hammer. He seemed to take the very brain out 
of my head and to put it, not in France at all, but into a 
house in Surrey with a pond in front of it, while he, with a 
punt-pole in his hand, brought a piece of water-starwort 
into Julia Oliphant's hand 

His arm, both his arms, were over his face as he tried 
to hide it all from her. No cry broke from him now. But 
her arms were locked desperately about his waist. She 
would never let him go. 

Then somewhere a dog yapped, and at the sound the hor- 
rible life-slide ceased. It ceased because it could not go 
further. How could it go further than that side-street off 
Piccadilly in which the woman who had written The Parthian 
Arrow had set a dog upon the author of An Ape in Hell? 
Already I had started forward, but my foot caught in the 
scrub, and I found myself rolling, clutching wildly in the 
air for something to hold. 

But I swear it was for them and not for myself that I 
feared. 

Then, as they slowly swayed outward together by the 
mountain-ash, the beautiful, re-transfiguring thing happened. 

A stupid woman with a wretched little pet dog ! A rebuff 
on a pavement over a miserable literary squabble! Was it 
for this that the years had changed on his face as the hues 
change on a spinning top? Was that all that this common- 
place apparition of a woman had reminded him of? Why, 
he had thought it had been something important, something 
to do with the peace of churches, the beauty of coloured 
windows, the glorious thunder-roll from the organ! He 
had thought it had something to do with his boyhood's 
dreams, aspirations, vows! But only this! ... It was not 
worth the trouble of having sought it. He had better get 
back to his deliverance. 

He laughed. The vane whirred in the opposite direction. 
He began to go back to Jennie r 

He swam back to her across the Channel, knowing now 
that she awaited him on the other side 

He ran at Ambleteuse ran swiftly to her. 



THE TOWER OF OBLIVION 435 

His eyes met hers in the glow of the headlights at Ker 
Annie 

Once more he stood with her in that Tower of dead and 
forgotten doves fled on silent wheels with her through the 
night in that upper room in the Rue de la Cordonnerie 
took her, stainless, into his own virgin arms 

He was here again, back at the Chateau de Beaumanoir ; 
young, beautiful, innocent, grave, his arm dropped now, 
looking into her eyes, calling to her. 

"Look look at me yes, look, Jennie!" 

"Oh, my God, catch them !" Madge screamed. 

But I don't think she saw what I think I saw. Let us 
say that the scrub was treacherous, that it betrayed his 
foot ; it makes no difference now, for I have no son. Why, 
after all, go forward again if going forward meant no more 
than that four-seconds pilgrimage from which he had but 
that moment returned? Better as it was, neither forward 
nor back nor standing still on that edge of masonry or on 
any other edge. He drew her close to him. Their lips 
met. . . . 

"Oh, Lord, Thou hast prevented him with sweetness; he 
asked life of Thee and Thou hast given him length of days!' 

We heard the parting of the bushes down below. . . . 

A yard beyond the mountain-ash the butterflies continued 
to hover, and past them the silver-flashing stretch of canal- 
lock by Tressaint could be seen once more. 



EPILOGUE 

I stood before the Tower at the Chateau de la Garaye. 
No thrashing-gin sounded, for the day's work was over, 
and in and out of the empty windows of the glimmering 
Renaissance ruin the bats flitted. Madge, Alec and I were 
leaving France to-morrow. There was nothing further to 
do, there is nothing further to write. I shall never re-visit 
Dinan. 

But I did not enter their Tower. I should hardly have 
done so even had not that which showed in the saffron sky 
seemed to forbid me. For it seemed to me the perfect sym- 
bol of his end. It was the old moon in the new one's arms. 

Just so, just like that curved golden thread, so thin that 
a few minutes before it had not been to be seen just so had 
that tender crescent of his youth held that dim and gibbous 
and ghostly round of his past. Just so he had been hag- 
gardly haunted, but touched with golden innocence in the 
end. And he himself seemed to me to be peeping into that 
Tower which I did not enter, as for ages other crescents 
had peeped when the doves had filled that hollow with their 
crooning and no other sound had broken the hush of eve. 
And thenceforward he would always re-visit it, embracing 
with a gilded edge the whole dark content of man. 

But they lay elsewhere. They are not together, but side 
by side. Alec would not have it otherwise, and Madge did 
not seem greatly to care. 

The parallelism of their fair young bodies is the closing 
parallelism of this book. On his stone is a discrepancy that 
commonly passes as a carver's error. They lie thus : 

JANET AIRD DERWENT ROSE 

b. 1903 d. 1920 b. 1875 d. 1920 

at the Chateau de Beaumanoir at the same Time and Place 

aged 17 years aged 16 years 

R.I.P. 

437 



PR 

6029 

N56T6 



Onions, Oliver (pseud.) 
The tower of oblivion 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 



UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 
LIBRARY